It was only a matter of time, and now Michael Jordan is in the Hall of Fame.
Jordan was elected to the class of 2009 Monday with David Robinson, John Stockton, Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer.
The announcement was made in Detroit, site of the men's Final Four. Induction is Sept. 10-12 in Springfield, Mass., home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jordan's Hall of Fame selection was a slam dunk after he retired as perhaps the greatest player in history. And he gave much of the credit Monday to his college coach.
"There's no way you guys would have got a chance to see Michael Jordan play without Dean Smith," he said.
His soaring dunks, Nike commercials and "Air Jordan" nickname helped stamp him as one the most recognizable athletes around the world. He finished a 15-year career with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards with 32,292 points the third-highest total in league history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. His final career average of 30.12 goes down as the best, just ahead of Wilt Chamberlain's 30.07.
The five-time NBA MVP won six championships with the Bulls and another in college with North Carolina. The game Monday night.
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was an assistant with Carolina on that 1982 national championship team and was at Monday's induction, where Ty Lawson won the Bob Cousy award, given to the nation's top point guard.
Monday, he joked that when he saw Stockton and Robinson he was ready to put his shorts on again.
Jordan won two of his titles in the 1990s against Sloan, Stockton and the Utah Jazz. Stockton spent his entire career with the Jazz and finished with 19,711 points, 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals. He also holds NBA records for most assists in a season (1,164 in 1990-91) and highest assist average in a season (14.5 in 1989-90).
"Growing up I never thought about the Hall of Fame," he said. "All I wanted was a chance to go to college."
Utah took Stockton in the first round of the 1984 draft, using the No. 16 pick on a relatively unknown player from Gonzaga who became one of the top point guards.
"I haven't given this much thought over the course of a lifetime," he said. "I'm not sure it quite strikes home until you're standing here."
Robinson, who earned the nickname "The Admiral" from his college career at Navy, joined Stockton and Jordan as members of the NBA's 50th anniversary team.
He had a stellar 14-year career with the San Antonio Spurs that included two NBA championships, an MVP season, a rookie of the year award, 10 All-Star selections, a scoring title and two Olympic gold medals.
Robinson, too, credited his coaches over the years who "kicked me when I need to be kicked and hugged me when I needed to be hugged."
Sloan, who did not attend the ceremony, is the longest tenured head coach in major league sports with a single franchise. A two-time All-Star during his playing days with the Bulls, Sloan is the only NBA coach to win more than 1,000 games with a single team. He has the Jazz in seventh place in the Western Conference standings going into Monday night's games.
Stringer has led three separate teams to the Final Four in her 38-year career and has an 825-280 mark spanning four decades. She trails only Pat Summitt and Jody Conradt on the victories list. Stringer guided Rutgers to its fifth straight regional semifinals trip this season.
"My knees are weak, and to think I would standing here with these great, great, men of basketball," Stringer said. "It's not ever about me. It's about the players who all make it happen."
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