Going into All-Star Weekend, I wasn’t thinking about the Hall of Fame. I kind of let it go because it’s something I have no control over. I can’t do anything other than what I’ve already done in terms of my stats, my records and my impact on changing the game. So my mentality is, whatever they do, they do.
When I arrived in New York, I was notified to attend the Hall of Fame press conference on Saturday. They inform you right before, so I didn’t know I was a finalist in advance. On Saturday, when I went downstairs to head over to the press conference, there was a group of heavy-hitting Hall of Famers down in the hotel lobby.
There was Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Rick Barry, Nancy Lieberman. I was like, well, there must be some good stuff happening! The Big O is here – what is this all about?! Bill Russell is sitting right here. And Willis Reed – what’s going on, ya’ll?!
Rick (Barry) has had a calming effect on me throughout this whole process. He’s been there, he knows what it’s all about. He and Nancy and I are on the Board of Directors for the Retired Players Association together, so we are in constant communication (not about the Hall, about business). Between the two, they slide in a few prayers for me here and there.
So we get to the Garden. And of course Charlie Rosenzweig (from the NBA, if you don’t know him) is running us around like crazy! He’s always got us moving real fast! He has taken care of so many retired players over the years, so we look at him as part our family, and that’s the way it is. We get to the Garden and they run us through these corridors. And then you pop out practically on stage. I look out and I see all of these guys – Dominique Wilkins, George Gervin, Earl Monroe. Willis Reed, Mr. New York, had big business to attend to so he wasn’t there.
Of course my African brother, Mutombo, was there. Since I was married to Iman (who’s from Somalia), the Africans, like Mutombo and Olajuwon, view me as an African. That’s how they view me, really! And then there’s Kevin Johnson, who I have much respect for. As the Mayor Of Sacramento, saving that franchise, building a new arena, getting new ownership in there…nothing but respect.
We were all sitting there and they honored a handful of guys for their contributions, including two of my favorites. First, George Raveling, who has done so much for the game. He was one of the first black coaches in NCAA history. And then there’s my old friend Rod Thorn, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Let me flash back for a second. Rod Thorn was with me when I signed with Seattle. He was the assistant player coach, along with Lenny, who was the player head coach. Rod was assigned to pick me up from the hotel, bring me to practice, talk to me while we were driving in his Ford Thunderbird. He would calm me down, tell me everything is going to be alright. He told me to go through the process and that they’d protect me. So it was really joyful to see Rod there getting honored.
After the press conference, they were interviewing us on stage and asking about the experience and importance of being a finalist. I talked a little bit about being a finalist, but more important pressing news was that I truly believe that the one-and-done rule is really desecrating my fight to the Supreme Court. I know I should have been up there talking about getting selected, but I’m up there talking about a cause (the one-and-done, that is). Truth is, I strongly feel that players coming into the NBA need to be at least 20 years old and have two years of college under their belts. But I’ll get more into this topic (which I’m very passionate about) in my next blog post.
So I’m back in the Hall of Fame race. I feel very positive because all of the players on that podium and all of the retired players I saw over the weekend gave me so much love and so much hope. I’m grateful…very, very grateful for them.
Why is this Hall thing so important to me? It’s important because of what I did as a player. I’m not talking about what I did to change the game. I’m talking about straight-up basketball, nothing more. I was a four-time NBA All-Star, an NBA Champion, two-time All-NBA First Team. Throughout my 13-year pro career, I averaged 20.3 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game. The Sonics retired my jersey in 2007. That’s why it’s important. It’s an acknowledgement of all of that. I like the acknowledgement of what I’ve done for the game as well, but first and foremost, it’s about my stats, what I did as a player. And that’s what you are judged on. You are also judged on your impact on the game, and my impact on the game has been tre-men-dous. I like my stats, and that’s what I’m standing on.
Deep down in my stomach, I really feel good about it. I really do. Magic Johnson and all of those people show me so much love. Sometimes it’s like, are you all talking about me?! Magic walks up to me and says, “If you make it in this year, I’m going to come to the Hall of Fame and bring you across the threshold.” I was like, oh boy! And then you have statements like this from guys like Charles Barkley:
These things are serious, especially because they are coming straight from the players themselves. But if I’m really being honest here, thinking about this topic too much is nerve-wracking. I put my nerves in a golf ball and hit it. A hit of joy! Straight down the fairway! I feel very positive about it. I prayed on it a lot, and I prayed for God to give me some serenity with this.
That’s where I am right now. It’s out of my control. I can’t think about it 100 percent of the time, although it’s a huge thing for me. I pray to let go.