SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts — The Hall of Fame induction ceremony was filled with banter and anecdotes, oddball clips and wild interruptions from a giddy crowd happy to see one of the best variety classes in recent memory.
Symphony Hall was the location for Gregg Popovich to let everyone know They didn’t quite listenTony Parker tells the world How much Tim Duncan didn’t like him And Dwyane Wade brought his dad on stage with him to say, “We’re in the Hall of Fame, Doug.”
Here are some notable examples during the nearly 3 1/2 hour party that had a big Texan flavor but a Midwest end.
Tony Parker’s stamina (of a different kind)
Current Spurs CEO R.C. Buford was Popovich’s right-hand man when Parker was available in the 2001 draft, but Parker had such a disastrous first workout that he almost went elsewhere. Having redeemed himself, he had to endure what he called “the eye” from Duncan. When Popovich told him he would start in his fifth game, Parker replied, “Does he know Timmy?”
Parker was sure Duncan was of no use, joking and then repeating, “Timmy doesn’t like the French.” Parker said Duncan said a few words to him until he had a good game against Gary Payton.
“You should be fine.”
Parker showed more personality and charm on this night than at any time in his nearly two-decade career as a San Antonio Spurs. He joked about Bruce Bowen’s offensive incompetence as he always complained, asking for the ball before saying “Hi, Bruce” to Bowen in the crowd.
“It’s not my fault if Bob calls all the plays to Timmy,” said Parker, as Duncan sat facing him, still in character.
During one timeout early in his career, Parker told Popovich he’d better run something for Duncan coming out on the next play. Popovich asked if Duncan threw “the look” and Parker replied, “If you want a point guard tomorrow, we better give the ball to Timmy.”
Suffice it to say, four championships later, this strategy kept Parker running and the Spurs laden with trophies.
To no one’s surprise, Popovich stole the show with equal parts humor, storytelling, and heartwarming anecdotes. Calling himself “wisdom” he was often kicked out of training at the Air Force Academy, once a week at his own discretion.
Hearing the roar in the hall because of all the Texans who made the trip to see himself, Parker and Dirk Nowitzki going off to the basketball world, Popovich asked the adoring crowd: “What are you doing here? Who invited you?”
After receiving a surprise call for a tryout with the Denver Nuggets, Popovich told then-coach Larry Brown that he’d better pair up a couple, to prepare for a career in coaching because being on the ground wasn’t in the cards.
“It was a tough decision: me or (Hall of Famer) David Thompson,” Popovich said.
Thompson, one of the most outstanding athletes in basketball history during his time, was clearly not threatened by Popovich.
But it sent Popovich on a journey that got him at the feet of the Browns, Roy Williams, and Don Nelson—all Hall of Famers. He would have made it to the hall sooner but he didn’t want to go in until all his players who had made him such a legendary coach kissed him.
So, on Friday, Naismith boss Jerry Colangelo made sure Parker was assigned to the ceremony before Popovich, according to his wishes.
But he still deferred to his players, making sure to give them credit in return for his genius.
“You know what I did? I was there. I saw it all. I saw it and I have the pictures to prove I was there,” Popovich said.
“It’s not brain science. Like when was the last time you saw a new pick-and-roll? It’s all the same damn stuff. (Late jazz coach) Jerry Sloan performed the same play 77 times in a row, but he had Carl (Malone) and John ( Stockton).
Notoriously hard on Parker when Parker came aboard, he said that kind of training wouldn’t fly today.
“If I trained him now the way I did then, I’d be in handcuffs,” Popovich said.
It was a joke, very funny, but also a nod to the way basketball culture has changed over the years.
Of course, Kobe Bryant’s influence was felt throughout the evening. He and Wade played the same situation, and had a small rivalry due to Shaquille O’Neal switching titles from Los Angeles to Miami right when Wade entered the league. Bryant has battled those Parker and Popovich Spurs for over a decade for supremacy in the Western Conference, along with Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks. But his relationship with Pau Gasol put Bryant back to the top of the mountain in two leagues, and Gasol’s warm feelings for Bryant created an emotional scene during Gasol’s speech.
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, was present and seated with Gasol’s wife and children.
He expressed how much he misses Bryant to this day, and recalled his first conversation with Bryant when he was traded from Memphis to the Lakers in 2008.
Bryant texted him when Gasol landed, wanting to meet him well after midnight with an afternoon game on the way. Gasol suggested that he wait until the morning for the meeting, but Bryant was determined to welcome him formally.
Bryant appeared in Gasol’s room, and said, “Welcome to the Lakers. Let’s go win the championship.”
The crowd laughed, imagining Bryant’s insane competitiveness.
“Cut right to the chase.”
Three finals and two titles later, the chase was worth it.
Wade brings his father to the theatre
Wade bears his father’s name, and for a while, the father was the son’s favorite gamer until he spotted a guy named Michael Jordan and the famous “Come Fly with Me” video he and Becky Hammon wore (along with a bunch of other kids at the time) .
He noted that he would watch his father and uncles play games on the field all day long, with cruel fouls and cruel jokes in the aftermath. He was a clumsy boy, Wade said, with his hands and feet too big for his body.
But after his physique and coordination caught him, he still remembered the lessons his father taught him, pressured to be an all-around player rather than just a scorer, which led to Wade becoming the greatest point guard in league history.
So after calling out to members of his family to honor them for the time being, he finished by calling his father to stand up again, only to join him onstage with “bad knees” to demand: “We’re in the Hall of Fame, Doug.”
He ended the show.