Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond were among 12 finalists announced Friday for election into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Former Houston Cougars coach Guy Lewis, current Louisville coach Rick Pitino and UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian also are finalists for the 2013 class. The others included former NBA stars Maurice Cheeks, Spencer Haywood and Bernard King, longtime North Carolina women's coach Sylvia Hatchell and five-time WNBA All-Star Dawn Staley. Boston Celtics great Tom Heinsohn, already inducted as a player, is a finalist in the coaching category.
The announcement of the finalists kicked off All-Star Weekend in Houston. The 2013 class will be announced at the Final Four in April.
Brazilian great Oscar Schmidt, former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik, former ABA star Roger Brown, six-time All-Star Richard Guerin and Edwin Henderson, a black player from the early part of the 20th century were directly elected for induction. Granik worked as the NBA's executive vice-president from 1984-90 and was the president of USA Basketball from 1996-2000.
"Russ Granik's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame is so richly deserved," NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement. "The entire NBA family is thrilled that Russ is receiving this tremendous recognition."
Longtime Bucks announcer Eddie Doucette and writer John Feinstein were recipients of the Curt Gowdy media awards and former college coach George Raveling was honoured with a lifetime achievement award.
The careers of Payton, Hardaway and Richmond overlapped in the 1990s and early 2000s and they practiced together in California each summer. They were reunited on Friday, now first-time finalists for Hall of Fame election.
"To actually be sitting next to the guys and being a finalist is awesome," Richmond said. "I think we're better friends now than we were then, because back then, we were really going after each other."
Payton was the most decorated of the three, a nine-time All-Star who earned the nickname "The Glove" for his defensive prowess. He ended his career ranked fourth in career steals (2,445).
Payton played 13 of his 17 NBA seasons in Seattle and lately, he has been focused on the city's efforts to get another team. The SuperSonics were sold in 2006 and relocated to Oklahoma City, but a Seattle ownership group recently reached an agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings and formally filed for relocation.
"All we have to do is hope. Seattle deserves it," Payton said. "I'm feeling a lot of confidence from everybody."
Hardaway was a five-time All-Star and averaged at least 20 points in four consecutive seasons. He ranks 13th in both career assists (7,095) and 3-point field goals (1,542). He and Richmond were teammates along with Chris Mullin in Golden State, a high-scoring trio that became known as Run TMC. It was quickly broken up when Richmond was traded to Sacramento in 1992.
"I played with Mitch for three seasons, and our families became close-knit and keep in touch," Hardaway said. "One part of Run TMC is in there [Mullin], and it'd be great to get myself and Mitch in there. We played hard, we sacrificed a lot and we had fun together."
The inclusion of Lewis among the finalists was a significant victory for former Cougar Clyde Drexler, who's lobbied for years to get his beloved college coach into the Hall. Lewis, now 90, led the Cougars to 14 NCAA tournaments and five Final Fours. He also coached three players who are already in the Hall of Fame — Drexler, Elvin Hayes and Hakeem Olajuwon.
"With all of the support around the world for Guy Lewis, it's hard for me to think that he wouldn't make it this time," said Drexler, who stood and applauded when Lewis' name was announced Friday. "We've been disappointed in the past, but I'd be really disappointed this time."
Drexler and Olajuwon were members of Lewis' famed Phi Slamma Jama teams of the early 1980s. The Cougars appeared in three consecutive Final Fours, but never took home a championship. Their loss to Jim Valvano's N.C. State team in the 1983 title game is considered one of the greatest upsets in NCAA tournament history.
But Lewis was also one of the first coaches in the South to recruit and sign black players. He also was the visionary behind the "Game of the Century" between Houston and UCLA and the Astrodome in January 1968, the first nationally televised regular-season game.
"He's more deserving [of induction] than Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes and myself," Drexler said. "He's the one who helped shape and mould us into the players we became."
Hatchell and Staley were the other first-time finalists.
Hatchell recently became the third Division I women's coach to win 900 games. She's a three-time national coach of the year and has led the Tar Heels to three Final Fours, including the 1994 championship. Staley was a two-time college player of the year at Virginia and a three-time Olympic gold medallist with the U.S. team.