SPRINGFIELD - Thursday afternoon began the ceremonies for twelve basketball legends who will be enshrined in the 2012 class in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The twelve inductees are: Don Barksdale, Lidia Alexeeva, Mel Daniels, Chet Walker, Phil Knight, the All-American Red Heads, Katrina McClain, Reggie Miller, Don Nelson, Hank Nichols, Ralph Sampson, and Jamaal Wilkes.
- Don Barksdale was the first African-American to break the NCAA color barrier, as NCAA All-American.
- Lidia Alexeeva was the head coach that lead the Soviet Union Nation Team to gold in the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games.
- Mel Daniels, the American Basketball Association (ABA)'s all-time leading rebounder, fourth all-time leading scorer, a two-time league MVP, a seven-time ABA All-Star, and a member of three Indiana Pacers ABA Championship teams, also coached Celtics legend Larry Bird at Indiana State.
- Chet Walker, a seven-time NBA All-Star and member who the 1967 Championship Philadelphia 76ers who ended the Boston Celtics run of eight straight titles, only missed 21 games in his 13-year NBA career.
- Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, the first sports brand to work with elite athletes to gain insight into the types of products athletes needed.
- The All-American Red Heads team are better known as the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters and the first women's basketball team who broke social barriers for women spanning over six decades from 1936 to 1986.
- Katrina McClain, two-time Olympic gold medalist (1986 and 1996), Olympic bronze medalist (1992), and three-time FIBA World Championship medalist (gold in 1986 and 1990, bronze in 1994).
- Reggie Miller, known as one of the most "clutch" scorers in NBA history, spent his entire 17-year career with the Indiana Pacers, holds the franchise titles in points scored and steals. Miller is a five-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA Third Team selection, and an Olympic Gold Medal winner (1996).
- Don Nelson, the winningest coach in the history of the NBA with over 1,300 victories, a three-time NBA Coach of the Year (1983, 1985, 1992), won five titles with the Boston Celtics as a player in 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974 and 1976.
- Hank Nichols, who has been instrumental in the progression of rule changes at the collegiate level as a referee in over twenty years with the NCAA, has officiated six national championship games, 10 Final Fours, three NIT finals, and 13 ACC Championships, as well as two Olympic games.
- Ralph Sampson was only the third three-time National College Player of the Year at Virginia and only the sixth player in NCAA history to collect 2,000 points and 1,500 rebounds. He was the No.1 draft pick by the Houston Rockets in 1983 and thereafter was named to three NBA All-Star teams, was Rookie of the Year in 1984 and was the MVP of the 1985 All-Star Game.
- Jamaal Wilkes a former member of the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, was a three-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA Defensive second team, and was named Rookie of the Year in 1975.
The twelve inductees or their representatives received their Basketball Hall of Fame jackets at Center Court of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame before the media and close members of their families on Thursday afternoon. Barksdale, who passed away, was represented by his son, the All-American Red Heads were represented by a former owner's daughter, Lidia Alexeeva was unable to attend, and Mel Daniels, who is battling an illness, was unable to make it to the ceremony.
"I never aspired to this - I never knew there was such a position [for a non-player, non-coach or non-referee]. I'm still very, very surprised, and I can't tell you how emotional I am about it. It's a tremendous thrill, and an all-time honor [to be inducted]," Nike co-creator Phil Knight said.
To the sound of applause after being introduced, Hank Nichols said, "as unaccustomed to applause as I am - I have so many different emotions, it's hard for me to articulate them. But, for a referee to be in this great place of honor along with people like this is just too stunning for me to explain."
And what are the Hall of Fame inductees most looking forward to? "Getting through my speech tomorrow night," Reggie Miller said.
Photo: Erika Leigh, SB Nation Boston
Erika Leigh will be attending both the red carpet, as well as the Enshrinement Ceremony on Friday night. Be sure to follow her @_ErikaLeigh and the @SBNationBoston Twitter accounts for the latest updates from the ceremony.