Miller, Sampson, Nelson enshrined into Hall of Fame

10:59 PM, Sep 7, 2012   |    comments
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Springfield, MA (Sports Network) - Reggie Miller, Ralph Sampson and Don Nelson were among those enshrined as part of the 2012 Naismith Hall of Fame class.

Miller, a five-time NBA All-Star, Sampson, a three-time collegiate national player of the year, and Nelson, the winningest coach in NBA history, joined a class that also included Jamaal Wilkes, Katrina McClain, Hank Nichols and the first women's pro basketball team, the All American Red Heads.

Miller was one of the greatest clutch scorers in NBA history, playing his entire 17-season career with the Indiana Pacers and finishing as the franchise's all-time leader with 25,279 points and 1,505 steals. The former UCLA star ranks second on the NBA all-time list for three-point field goals made with 2,560, and is ninth on the NBA career free-throw percentage list at .888. He also has the most three-pointers made (320) in playoff history.

"Obviously basketball is a team game," Miller said, before giving all of his former Pacer teammates in attendance a standing ovation.

"Donnie (Walsh), thank you for taking a gamble on a skinny kid with big ears," Miller said. "Playing in a small market for 18 years, you really got to know your neighbors really well.

"People wish they could be in a house with the greatest of anything. I lived across the hall from the greatest women's player," Miller said of his sister Cheryl.

Sampson was best-known for his collegiate career at the University of Virginia in the early 1980s. A three-time Naismith Award winner and two-time Wooden Award recipient, he helped Virginia to one Final Four appearance, then gained fame in the NBA as one of the Rockets' Twin Towers -- along with Hakeem Olajuwon -- during the club's run of success in the mid 1980s. He was the NBA's top rookie in 1984 and the All-Star Game MVP in 1985.

"Words can't describe how I feel about being among the greats who have ever played this game," Sampson said. "We, as older guys, need to help the younger guys highly appreciate this game."

Nelson, who was a finalist for the fifth time, has more than 1,300 NBA victories and is one of only two coaches to be named NBA Coach of the Year three times. He spent over 40 years of his life as a player, coach and general manager, winning five titles as a player with the Boston Celtics. The teams he coached made 18 postseason appearances and amassed 75 playoff wins.

"Hopefully this will be the last tuxedo that I'll be wearing. I am going to Maui. There is life after basketball," Nelson said.

Wilkes was a member of four NBA championship teams, first in 1975 with Golden State and the Lakers in 1980, '82 and '85. After a stellar collegiate career at UCLA, where he was a member of two national championship teams, Wilkes won the 1975 NBA Rookie of the Year and finished his 12-year career with an average of 17.7 points per game.

"Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), one of my bigger honors was playing alongside you, the greatest scorer in the NBA," Wilkes, who played with Abdul-Jabbar as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1977-85, said.

McClain is one of the most decorated athletes in USA Basketball national team history, winning Olympic gold medals in 1988 and 1996, as well as Olympic bronze in 1992. Before stepping onto the international stage, she was a two- time All-America (1986, 1987) and the 1987 WBCA National Player of the Year at the University of Georgia.

"I'm so humbled to be part of a great group of athletes," McClain said. "Julius Erving was my role model, the epitome of basketball".

Nichols was a long-time official who has refereed six national championship games and 10 Final Fours. After his officiating career, he became the national coordinator of officials for the NCAA and was instrumental in the progression of rules changes at the collegiate level.

"Heck, I'm not a referee anymore, I am going to wear my glasses now," Nichols joked. "I am accepting this honor for everyone in a striped shirt. They are the integrity of the game."

The All American Red Heads were known as the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters and regularly played more than 200 games per season while touring thousands of miles reaching 49 states, Canada and the Philippines from 1936 to 1986.

"To all of the men and women who were bold enough to challenge the status quo and play basketball, this honor is shared with you," Tammy Harrison, the daughter of late Red Heads coach Orwell Moore and player Lorene Moore, said.

"My dad was a great coach, but my mom was the star," she said.

Also enshrined were five directly-elected members who were announced in February. They included Mel Daniels, voted in from the American Basketball Association (ABA) Committee, Don Barksdale from the Early African-American Pioneers Committee, Lidia Alexeeva from the International Committee, Chet Walker from the Veterans Committee and Phil Knight from the Contributors Direct Election Committee.

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