Former Detroit Piston Ben Wallace, former Michigan star Chris Webber among Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductees today
By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer
If it didn’t really sink in when he slipped to the 10th pick in the 1998 NBA draft, Paul Pierce got the message when he went home to Los Angeles to play in the All-Star Game and got booed by his hometown fans.
“That’s just the story of my career: Being the underdog, not really being liked. I guess somebody has to be the villain,” Pierce said Friday, a day before he is to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “I’m comfortable with that.”
A 10-time All-Star and the MVP of the 2008 NBA finals, Pierce was in a class of 16 scheduled to be honored at the Springfield, Massachusetts, shrine tonight.
Also giving the event a Celtics feel: Bill Russell, who is already in the Hall as a player, will be inducted as a coach, making him the fifth person to be honored for both roles.
Others to be inducted are Villanova coach Jay Wright, Pistons defensive star Ben Wallace, two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh, longtime Portland and Sacramento coach Rick Adelman, three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, Washington, Sacramento and University of Michigan star Chris Webber and two-time Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith.
The Hall’s committees, which are focused on preserving all areas of the game, have also selected former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman, longtime coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, scouting pioneer Howard Garfinkel to be inducted as contributors. Clarence “Fats” Jenkins was picked by the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Croatian Chicago Bulls star Toni Kukoc was tabbed by the International Committee, Bob Dandridge by the Veterans Committee and Pearl Moore from the Women’s Veterans Committee.
Webber went from Michigan’s Fab Five freshman class to play 17 seasons in the NBA. He even noted the most ignominious moment of his career: The extra timeout he called in the 1993 NCAA championship game against North Carolina.
“Calling timeout, one of the worst moments you can have, 60 days later to be drafted, it was a whirlwind,” he said. “I really did enjoy the journey. The ups and downs and everything that came with it.”
Wallace broke down in tears while talking about his road from Virginia Union to a four-time defensive player of the year who won the 2004 NBA title with the Pistons. Going undrafted, he said, was a blessing.
“Either you’re going to find your true strength, or you’re going to prove to me why you want to be here,” he said. “There’s moments on your journey when you have to … stay on your path. If there’s a roadblock in your path, you’ve got to find a way to overcome that roadblock.”