Friday night, a new class was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Sprinfield, Massachusetts. Six members of the nine-person class were in attendance to speak, creating an evening of memorable moments on the stage.
As one of the NBA's first European stars, Vlade Divac probably stood out as the most notable person to take the podium. He spent eight years with the Sacramento Kings and six with the Los Angeles Lakers, giving him plenty of great moments to look back on.
His pioneering role in the history of the sport saw him play all over the world and win a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics for Yugoslavia. He also went through civil war in the country shortly after, which just strengthened his strong philosophy about the ties between basketball and life.
“Basketball is like life and life is like basketball. It’s just a game," Divac said. "So lets play the best we can while we are still here with love, compassion, selflessness fairplay and supporting each other to be bigger and better human beings.”
Jack Sikma was another big man enshrined who also had his share of highlights in the league. The seven-time All-Star led the Seattle SuperSonics to the 1979 NBA title and spent the majority of his career with the now-defunct franchise.
With Seattle being so near and dear to his heart, he spent time during his speech stumping for the team to return.
“There’s a hole in Seattle that needs to be filled,” Sikma. “Speaking for all Sonics fans, it’s our greatest hope that the NBA will soon find a pathway to bring basketball back to Seattle."
Sidney Moncrief was a contemporary of Sikma's, primarily starring during the 1980's with the Milwaukee Bucks. He won the 1983 and 1984 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award as well as being named a five-time All-Star.
Moncrief is also a college basketball legend at Arkansas after helping lead them to the 1978 Final Four. His jersey is retired by both the Razorbacks and Bucks.
Moncrief boiled his entire speech down to a endearing respect for what basketball has done in his life.
"The game taught me how to prepare for opportunities, how to execute strategies, how to compete unconditionally and how to adjust when you experience setbacks," said Moncrief.
Much like Moncrief, Bobby Jones also built his career on defense. He was an eight-time All-Defensive Team selection and four-time All-Star, who was a perfect complementary player with both the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers.
Jones was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year the same season he helped the Sixers win the NBA championship. The eight seasons he spent in Philadelphia led to his #24 jersey retired by the franchise.
Defense continued to be the theme of this enshrinement with Teresa Weatherspoon, a two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. The five-time All-Star was also named to the league's list of the Top 15 Players of All-Time in 2011 and the Top 20@20 ranking in 2016.
Weatherspoon's talk had both moments of comic relief and seriousness. She was able to razz her presenters, former Houston Comets greats Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, about one of the league's most iconic moments, her game-winning shot for the New York Liberty in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals.
Weatherspoon also turned the speech towards expressing the deep meaning basketball has had for her.
“The game has meant so many things to me,” she said. “It’s been my sanctuary; it’s been my safe haven. The game has allowed me to see things I never thought I’d see, meet people I never thought I’d meet.”
Paul Westphal was one of the early Phoenix Suns stars and one of the few members of this class that got in based on his prodigious scoring ability. He was a five-time All-Star who averaged over 20 points a game in each of his five seasons with the Suns.
Westphal also coached the Suns, Seattle Sonics and Sacramento Kings. He is a member of the Suns Ring of Honor and the USC Hall of Fame.
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