Three with Chicago ties elected to Basketball Hall of Fame
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter February 14, 2014 10:06PM
** FILE ** George Mikan, right, six-foot, ten-inch center for the Minneapolis Lakers, goes way up to make a goal as New York Knickerbockers' six-foot, seven-inch center Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton (8) makes an unsuccessful attempt to thwart the score in this April 8, 1953 photo at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York. Mikan, professional basketball's first dominant big man who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, has died, family members said Thursday, June 2, 2005. He was 80.(AP Photo)
Updated: March 17, 2014 11:51AM
NEW ORLEANS — Former DuSable star Nat ‘‘Sweetwater’’ Clifton, former Bulls guard Guy Rodgers and former Chicago Zephyrs player/coach Bobby ‘‘Slick’’ Leonard provided a Chicago flavor to the Hall of Fame announcements at NBA All-Star Game festivities Friday.
Clifton (early African-American pioneers committee), Rodgers (veterans committee) and Leonard (ABA committee) were directly elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, along with former commissioner David Stern (contributors committee) and Lithuanian star Sarunas Marciulionis (international committee).
The 6-6 Clifton, who died in 1990 at 67, played for the Harlem Globetrotters and averaged 10 points and nine rebounds over seven seasons in the NBA. He made the NBA All-Star team with the Detroit Pistons at 34 in 1957. At the time, he was the oldest player to make an all-star team.
Rodgers, who died in 2001 at 65, was a prototypical playmaking guard who led the NBA in assists twice and was second six times over an eight-year span. He set an NBA record for assists (908) with the Bulls in 1966-67, teaming with Jerry Sloan to spark the Bulls to the playoffs as an expansion team.
‘‘He was a heck of a ballhandler and passer,’’ said Hall of Famer Rick Barry, a teammate of Rodgers with the San Francisco Warriors in 1965-66 before Rodgers was traded to the Bulls. ‘‘I could always play without the ball really well and I realized that Guy was dominating. I said, ‘If I can run and get open, he loves to get assists, so I’m going to get a lot of easy baskets.’ And that’s exactly what happened.’’
Leonard, 81, won three ABA titles as coach of the Indiana Pacers (1970, 1972, 1973). He played for the Zephyrs in 1961-63 and became their coach in 1962-63. The team moved to Baltimore the following season. Leonard is credited with scouting Sloan, who spent one year with the Bullets before being selected by the Bulls in the expansion draft.
Former Carver star Tim Hardaway was among 10 finalists for the Hall of Fame. The others are former NBA players Alonzo Mourning, Spencer Haywood, Kevin Johnson and Mitch Richmond; coaches Eddie Sutton, Nolan Richardson, Gary Williams and Harley Redin; and the Immaculata women’s team that won three consecutive national championships from 1972-74.