ICYMI: The Basketball Hall of Fame, Class of 2015

If the Cavs and Bulls are already missing starters, shop you know the NBA season is getting closer.  While players are starting training camps, discount filming promos, taking elbows to the face, and debuting new hairstyles, there’s still more to wrap up from what feels like a very long NBA offseason.

A few weeks ago, you may have missed what flew very far under the radar, and that’s the 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame Inductions.  Compared to the Football and Baseball Hall of Fame honors, the Basketball Hall of Fame that stands in Springfield, Massachusetts draws very little buzz and tourism despite honoring well known players, coaches and officials across NCAA, NBA and WNBA basketball.  The lack of interest can sometimes be attributed to a class of inductees short of relevant stars, but more often, the out of season timing and a confusing and anonymous nomination process has people rolling their eyes.

While the NFL uses the Pro Football Hall off Fame weekend to kick off the preseason and Baseball honors its Hall of Famers in July in iconic Cooperstown just as the MLB season is heating up, the Basketball Hall of Fame hosted its enshrinement on September 11th, coinciding with the kick off weekend of the NFL regular season, when basketball might be furthest from a sports fans mind.

Never the less, the 2015 Hall of Fame honorees included NBA All Stars, Industry Challengers and a decorated WNBA trailblazer who all deserved a much bigger deal than they got.  Here’s a little background on the 2015 class:

Dikembe Mutombo – An 8 time NBA All Star who spent time with the Nuggets, Hawks, 76ers, Nets, Knicks and Rockets over his 18 seasons in the NBA.  Mutombo finished his career as the 2nd greatest shot blocker in NBA history with 3,289 blocks behind only Hakeem Olajuwon.  At the HOF ceremony, Mutombo spoke about the humanitarian work he has been able to do in the Congo as a result of his work on the court.  You may have seen him most recently participating in the first ever NBA Africa game, coming off the bench to a roaring crowd and wagging his finger after blocking a shot from Trey Burke.

Spencer Haywood – A four time NBA All Star, Haywood is most often remembered for challenging the NBA rule that forced players to wait four years after graduating high school to enter the NBA draft.  Eventually taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices found in favor of Haywood and the age restriction was lifted allowing players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson all the way through Kobe, Lebron and Dwight Howard to enter the NBA Draft before completing a college career.  But at the ceremony, Haywood reminded the audience that his legacy goes beyond the ruling remarking, “Remember guys, I had game. It’s not like I just did this Supreme Court thing. I had some serious game.”

Lisa Leslie – 3 time WNBA MVP, 2 time Defensive Player of the Year, 8 time All Star, and 4 time Olympic Gold Medalist, Leslie played 12 seasons for the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA.  A pioneer in the women’s game, Leslie was drafted as part of the initial allocation phase of the WNBA draft when the league incorporated in 1996.  Leslie was the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game and finished her career in 2009 holding the league record for points and rebounds.  GET IT GIRL

Dick Bavetta – A 39 year NBA referee, Bavetta has been an unlikely famous figure in the NBA for almost four decades.  At the age of 75, Bavetta has officiated 2,635 consecutive games, never missing assignments due to inclement weather, or even a punch in the face from Jalen Rose.  Hall of Fame worthy on its own, Bavetta gave us the legendary court length race against Charles Barkley during All Star Week in 2007.  #neverforget

Other 2015 HOF entrants included: John Calipari, Jo Jo White, Tom Heinsohn, Louis Dampier, Lindsay Gaze, John Isaacs, and George Raveling.

While the Basketball Hall of Fame inductions could use a refresh in timing and marketing, as well as a streamlined and transparent nomination process, the 2016 Basketball Hall of Famers should be able to generate a bit more fanfare next year.  With an almost certain nomination for controversial star Allen Iverson, now the requisite 5 years removed from his retirement, and the potential for Chris Webber to break in, next year’s ceremony should provide some good sound bites at the very least.

25 days until NBA tip off…

About the author: Jamie Litoff. NBA Correspondent. Jamie is an Evanston native and devoted Bulls, Bears, Cubs and Michigan Wolverines fan. A Big Ten girl through and through, Jamie graduated from Michigan before finishing her Masters degree in Sports Administration at Northwestern last year. Passionate about the intersection of sports and technology, Jamie works in digital media and sponsorship at Intersport in Chicago. In her free time, you can find her repping the 300 level of the UC at Bulls games, eating wings at the Birds Nest, laying on a North Side beach or listening to podcasts. Follow her @jamielitoff on Twitter and Instagram.

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