Sacramento proud: Chris Webber, Rick Adelman, Yolanda Griffith elected to Hall of Fame

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A beleaguered fan base will have something to celebrate in September when Sacramento’s heroes of yesteryear are immortalized among the game’s all-time greats in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Former Kings coach Rick Adelman, five-time NBA All-Star Chris Webber and seven-time WNBA All-Star Yolanda Griffith will be among 16 individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2021, officials announced Sunday. They will be enshrined Sept. 11 in Springfield, Mass., during weekend festivities that will remind Sacramento of a time when Adelman and Webber took the Kings to the brink of greatness and Griffith led the now-defunct Monarchs to a WNBA championship.

“C Web is a Hall of Famer,” longtime Kings radio play-by-play announcer Gary Gerould tweeted. “Ditto for Rick Adelman and Yolanda Griffith. Terrific day for Sacramento basketball. Outstanding!!”

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The Sacramento contingent will be inducted as part of an impressive class that includes 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh; 10-time All-Star and 2008 NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce; and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace. The class will also include former Kings coach Bill Russell, who was enshrined as a player in 1975 but will now be inducted as a coach.

The Class of 2021 will closely follow the Class of 2020, which was enshrined Saturday after induction ceremonies were delayed several months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“For the first time in our history, we’ll enshrine two Classes in one calendar year,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a news release. “We couldn’t be more excited to welcome the Class of 2021 to Springfield — the Birthplace of Basketball — where we can celebrate them and honor their remarkable achievements and contributions to the game.”

Adelman amassed a 1,042-749 (.582) record in 23 seasons as a head coach in the NBA, leading his teams to the playoffs 16 times. He ranks ninth all-time in career wins with two 60-win seasons and 11 50-win seasons. He reached 200 wins in 288 games, which was a record at the time.

Adelman guided the Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. He led the Kings to the brink of an NBA championship before they were ousted by the Los Angeles Lakers in a memorable seven-game series in the controversial 2002 Western Conference finals.

Adelman coached the All-Star Game three times. He coached several Hall of Fame players during his career, including Vlade Divac, Clyde Drexler, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo, Chris Mullen and Drazen Petrovic. Now he can add Webber to that list.

Webber was a five-time NBA All-Star. He was named Rookie of the Year while playing for the Golden State Warriors in 1994. He later earned All-NBA First Team honors in 2001, Second Team honors in 1999, 2002 and 2003, and Third Team honors in 2000.

The Washington Wizards traded Webber to the Kings for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe in May 1998. Webber teamed with other Kings greats such as Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson and Jason Williams to form what Sports Illustrated called “The Greatest Show on Court.” The Kings went 61-21 to post the best record in the NBA in 2001-02. They made eight consecutive postseason appearances under Adelman from 1998-2006 and haven’t been back to the playoffs since, matching the longest playoff drought in NBA history after 15 consecutive losing seasons.

Webber averaged 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks over his 15-year career NBA career. He made four of his five All-Star Game appearances while playing for the Kings from 1998-2005. He averaged 23.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists over seven seasons in Sacramento. The Kings retired Webber’s No. 4 jersey on Feb. 6, 2009.

Before coming to the NBA as the No. 1 pick in the 1993 draft, Webber starred on the “Fab Five” Michigan teams, appearing in two Final Fours and one NCAA championship game. Those Michigan teams became a cultural phenomenon with their baggy shorts, black shoes, black socks and swagger, but the program was sanctioned and Webber was stripped of his 1993 All-American honors due to a scandal involving booster Ed Martin.

That might have lingered in the minds of Hall of Fame voters, who made Webber wait 13 years after his retirement in 2008 before finally granting him admission. Amid the fallout from the scandal, Webber had a strained relationship with childhood friend and “Fab Five” teammate Jalen Rose for years, but they shared a special moment when Webber’s selection to the Hall of Fame was announced Sunday on ESPN.

Webber was asked if he ever dreamed he would reach the Hall of Fame as a boy growing up in Detroit, where he would eventually become Michigan’s Mr. Basketball, a McDonald’s All-American and the 1991 national high school player of the year.

“Whoever says they think they’re getting to the Hall of Fame, you know, it’s just not true,” Webber said. “I remember taking a white toothbrush and some beat-up gym shoes over to Jalen’s house, walking them down the street, and we would get soap, water and white shoe polish and try to make our shoes look new. Who knew later that you’d be on a team, wearing long shorts … and just being ourselves? So, no, I didn’t know if being yourself was good enough to change the game and influence people, but thank God we had an impact.”

That response was followed by a touching exchange between Webber and Rose.

Rose: “Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III, you’re in the Hall of Fame, brother. You made it to the Hall of Fame. We played on the Super Friends together. … We were 13 years old. You’re in the Hall of Fame, brother. Well deserved. Congratulations.”

Webber: “Jalen Anthony Rose, it’s crazy man, and thank God for your beautiful, wonderful mother, because you know what she did for me.”

Rose: “Thank you, brother. I love you. I appreciate you.”

Webber: “I love you, too.”

Griffith was a seven-time WNBA All-Star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. In 1999, she was named WNBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. In 2005, she led the Monarchs to the WNBA championship while earning All-WNBA First Team and WNBA All-Defensive First Team honors.

Griffith was named to the WNBA’s All-Decade Team in 2006 and was recognized as one of the top 20 players in the league’s 20-year history in 2016. Griffith was named WBCA Division II Player of the Year at Florida Atlantic University in 1993 before beginning her pro career in Germany and the American Basketball League. She was named ABL Defensive Player of the Year and All-ABL First Team in 1998.

The Monarchs selected Griffith with the No. 2 pick in the 1999 WNBA Draft. She led the league in field goals, rebounds, offensive rebounds and steals in her first season. The highlight of her career came in 2005, when she was named WNBA Finals MVP after the Monarchs defeated the Connecticut Sun to win their only championship before the franchise folded in 2009.

Russell became the first Black head coach in NBA history when he served as player-coach of the Boston Celtics following the retirement of Red Auerbach in 1966. The Celtics won the championship in Russell’s second season as player-coach, making him the first Black head coach to win an NBA title. Russell coached the Celtics from 1966-69, the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973-77 and the Kings in 1987-88. Russell was fired after going 17-41 in his first 58 games in Sacramento, but he retired with a 341-290 (.540) coaching record and a 34-27 (.557) playoff record.

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