Sports hall of fame induction events always enrapture me. They beautifully celebrate worthy individuals with inspirational tales of unique personal accomplishments.
I’m helplessly attracted to these awards ceremonies because I love listening to the honored share how their individual journeys to the podium that night were only made possible by contributions of so many others in their lives.
Their recollections tug on my emotions and serve as soothing balm, extolling what’s good and pure and noble in life.
Tuning into last night’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Springfield, MA was no different.
The annual gala both entertained and enervated me.
After listening to Mitch Richmond, Nolan Richardson, Gary Williams, Theresa Grentz (the Immaculata College spokeswoman), Bobby “Slick” Leonard and Alonzo Mourning pour out their genuine gratitude to a packed house at Springfield Symphony Hall and an expectant NBA TV audience, my spirit was lifted.
The unending white noise of sports media outlets and their unquenchable thirst for ratings, viewers and web site clicks were immediately silenced. The non-stop reporting of their negative sports stories or their relentless unmasking of the dark side of sports were neither seen nor heard last night.
Quickly forgotten were NFL player suspensions, salary disputes, concussion lawsuits, recruiting violations and free agency speculation.
Way down stream were the forgettable images of Paul George’s gruesome leg injury in Las Vegas and Ray Rice’s vicious knockout punch in an Atlantic City elevator.
And, not even on my radar were the sordid stories of new PED allegations in baseball, match fixing in FIFA games or sexual assault arrests of far too many athletes.
Last night, good was on display. Purity of spirit was evident. And, truly noble things in life – respect, gratefulness and honor – were celebrated by hardwood heroes of varying races, sexes and ages.
Richmond tenderly acknowledged his mother and respectfully thanked coaches, teammates and those who contributed to his success.
Richardson captivated by sharing clever anecdotes as well as empowering stories of racial advancement in the college basketball coaching profession without demonstrating any bitterness.
Williams told of a circuitous path to coaching NCAA basketball that started with his first unanticipated college job as a soccer coach.
Grentz entertained with heartfelt remembrances of a tiny all-girls Catholic college from a by-gone era of basketball that unwittingly birthed new beginnings for the women’s sport.
Leonard gratefully thanked a litany of colleagues and friends whose paths he crossed in 60+ years in basketball and peppered his presentation with colorful ABA stories.
And, Mourning unintentionally stole the spotlight with his gripping tale of overcoming a life threatening illness to emerge as an NBA champion and a South Florida humanitarian and role model.
Mourning’s acceptance was certainly my favorite because of his candor, transparency and sincerity. The ferocious defender and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year exemplified my all-time favorite sports quote uttered in 2000 by Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former South African President the late Nelson Mandela.
“Sports have the power to change the world.”
Last night, Mandela’s famous quote, intended to extol the virtues of sports as an agent for moral integrity and positive social change, was splendidly on display. And, Mourning was not the only example of moral integrity to share his personal story.
Sports fans witnessed how the powerful, life changing stories of courage, conviction, friendship, ingenuity, overcoming, gratitude, etc. of all those inducted into the 2014 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame have positively touched the lives of so many for the good.
MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!