Stern, Marciulionis among Hall of Fame inductees

AFP| Updated: Feb 15, 2014, 23:34 PM IST

Only two weeks after the end of his 30-year reign as commissioner of the NBA, David Stern is heading for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The 71-year-old American who oversaw the NBA`s rise from a struggling league to a global sport powerhouse was among five people announced Friday as 2014 inductees to the sport`s shrine.

Stern, who was replaced by former deputy Adam Silver on February 1, spoke with Hall of Fame and USA Basketball executive Jerry Colangelo after learning of his Hall of Fame election.

"There`s a special spot for him. He deserves to be recognized in a huge way," Colangelo said.

"He is a very humble person. He wasn`t sure he wantred that kind of notoriety. At the end of the day, he`s really excited and I think he`s looking forward to it."

Joining him in being directly elected into the Hall of Fame were retired Lithuanian star Sarunas Marciulionis, former NBA coach Bobby "Slick" Leonard and posthumous honorees Guy Rodgers and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton.

Ten others, including former Miami Heat stars Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, were named as finalists for induction from the North American committee. They will learn their fate on April 7.

Enshrinement ceremonies will be staged August 7-8 at the Hall of Fame`s home in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Marciulionis, 49, led the Soviet Union to gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and spent seven seasons in the NBA in the 1990s, one of the first Europeans to make the move to NBA prominence.

Leonard, 81, played for a US college championship team at Indiana and won 529 games as coach of the Indiana Pacers from 1968-1980. He has been a Pacers radio broadcast analyst for 29 seasons.

"It took a little while, but we`re going out in style," Leonard said.

Clifton, who died in 1990 at age 67, was among the first African-American players in the NBA.

Rodgers, who died in 2001 at age 65, was a 1960s star who spent 12 seasons in the NBA.

Hardaway was among four prior finalists to again move one step from the Hall of fame, the others being fellow multi-time NBA All-Stars Mitch Richmond and Spencer Haywood and long-time US women`s college coach Harley Redin.

Mourning was among six first-time finalists, a roster that also included former US college coaches Eddie Sutton, Nolan Richardson and Gary Williams plus former Phoenix star Kevin Johnson and the three-time US women`s college championship team at Immaculate University from the early 1970s.

"Each finalist has made a difference to the game in their own way," Colangelo said. "It`s not going to be easy for the Honors Committee to select the final class."

Mourning, who won an NBA crown in 2006 with Miami after undergoing as kidney transplant in 2003, was happy to simply be a Hall of Fame finalist.

"To be considered to be part of this prestigious fraternity is a tremendous honor," Mourning said.