Riley, Ewing, Olajuwon, four others elected to Basketball Hall of Fame

April 11, 2008

This past Monday, the Basketball Hall of Fame announced seven new members to be inducted this September. The cast of the seven to be enshrined may be one of the deepest in recent memory. The seven are Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dick Vitale, Adrian Dantley, Bill Davidson, and Cathy Rush.

Pat Riley enters the Hall of Fame after a solid career as a bench player and a superstar coach. Riley was marked for fame after being one of two star players for Kentucky’s 1966 team that lost in the NCAA Finals to Texas Western, depicted in the movie Glory Road. Riley was then a backup on the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972 when they won their first title after leaving Minneapolis. For the 1982 season, he became the Lakers’ head coach, a position he held for 9 years and four NBA Championships. While there, he developed such players like Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, James Worthy, and A.C. Green. Then he moved to the New York Knicks for four years, including their 1994 trip to the NBA Finals. He has spent the last 13 seasons with the Miami Heat as coach and team president. With acquisitions of Alonzo Mourning and Dwayne Wade, Riley has greatly shaped the Heat franchise. Overall, Riley has won 5 championships, coached 21 playoff teams, and has won the third most games of any coach in NBA history.

Patrick Ewing has been called the greatest center in New York Knicks history. After a tremendous collegiate career at Georgetown, the Knicks won the rights to Ewing in the first ever NBA draft lottery. Ewing revitalized the struggling franchise and made it a perennial contender. He may not have won an MVP, a championship, or a scoring title, but he scored 20 points per game for 13 straight season and was a premier defender as well. It is fitting that Ewing goes into the Hall with the coach who brought him to the 1994 Finals.

Hakeem Olajuwon was a tremendous center for many years in the NBA. He is intertwined with Michael Jordan in two major ways. First, Michael Jordan was drafted third in the 1985 draft. Everybody remembers Sam Bowie, who failed to produce after being taken second. But nobody brings up that #1 pick, because that was Olajuwon. Second, Jordan won 6 championships over the course of 8 years in the 1990’s. Olajuwon won the other two, one against Ewing. Playing all but one season for Houston, he averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks a game. And who could forget the Dream Shake?

Vitale has been a premier college basketball sportscaster and analyst for over thirty years. Dantley was a six-time all-star who led the league in scoring twice while stabilizing Utah Jazz basketball in the 1980’s. Davidson has owned the Detroit Pistons for 34 years, buying the team from the original owner in 1974. Cathy Rush is a basketball coach.¬

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