Last weekend, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined the Class of 2021 in Springfield, Mass. Of the members in the class, four: Bobby Dandridge, Ben Wallace, Chris Webber and Paul Pierce also share a common bond: they were members of the Washington Wizards/Bullets franchise at some point during their careers.
Of the Wizards/Bullets alumni inducted to the Hall of Fame, Wallace’s speech stood out the most to me given how he got to the NBA in the first place.
Wallace is the first undrafted player to make the Hall of Fame in the NBA’s modern era. While his best years were with the Detroit Pistons where they won a championship in the 2003-04 season, I enjoyed his statement about building one’s legacy and having a chance on an equal playing field. His career is like a modern-day Rocky Balboa story to me. Wallace was with the Wizards from 1996-99.
Pierce did not cry during his speech and seemed a bit nervous from time to time given his laugh from time to time. I don’t blame him, because as The Truth said himself, he never expected to be in the Hall of Fame when he was a kid. Pierce just wanted to play in college, and later, the NBA. While Pierce only played one year in Washington (2014-15), he will always be remembered for his game-winner in Game 3 of the Wizards’ 2015 second round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.
Webber, unlike many Hall of Famers, never won an NBA or NCAA championship. But he was a very skilled player and was among the best players in the league, even when he played for the Bullets/Wizards from 1994-98. I appreciated his comment about embracing the moment while one is playing.
Of the alumni, I’d say that Dandridge’s was the most feel-good of the class. The four-time All-Star and two-time champion hasn’t played in the NBA for nearly 40 years and averaged 18.5 points per game throughout his career with the Bullets and Milwaukee Bucks. Besides winning the 1978 championship with the Bullets, Dandridge was also an All-Star in the 1978-79 season when Washington made the Finals once again.
The other inductees were Chris Bosh, Lauren Jackson, Rick Adelman, Bill Russell (as a coach), Toni Kukoc, Yolanda Griffith, Val Ackerman, Howard Garfinkel, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Pearl Moore and Clarence Fats Jenkins.
Congratulations to all of the Hall of Famers in the Class of 2021.