Class act: Dumars humbled by Hall of Fame nod
DETROIT -- Joe Dumars is going into the Basketball Hall of Fame just as he played -- under the radar.
Making all the noise, drawing all the attention Friday night will be two other inductees -- Charles Barkley and Dominique Wilkins. Barkley, no doubt, will have the most entertaining speech. Wilkins will monopolize the highlight tapes.
Dumars plans to stay nice and quiet, in keeping with the way he acted as a player and conducts himself as the Detroit Pistons' president of basketball operations.
"It's only befitting that I go in with a couple guys like Charles and Dominique because it typifies my 14 years in the NBA," Dumars said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. "And it's absolutely the way I would prefer to go into the Hall of Fame."
Unlike Barkley and Wilkins, Dumars was an NBA champion. He was the MVP of the 1989 NBA Finals and helped Detroit repeat the next year.
"The three of us are getting to the same mountain top as players, using three different routes," Dumars said. "You're either a Hall of Famer based on championships or numbers, and I'm 100 percent comfortable and happy with the route I've taken."
Detroit drafted Dumars with the 18th pick overall in 1985, and the skinny, unknown shooting guard from McNeese State spent his entire 14-year career with Pistons -- the longest any player has played for the franchise.
"What's great about only playing for one team is that when people think about your career, they don't have to piece it together," he said. "They don't have to say, 'What did he do there?' or 'Did he win a title there?' If people think about my career, they only think about the Pistons, and I like that."
Dumars, elected in his second year of eligibility, might not be a Hall of Fame player because of any one facet of his game, but his versatility earned him a spot among the game's all-time stars.
"Nobody deserves it more than Joe," Pistons owner Bill Davidson said.
Michael Jordan has said Dumars was the toughest defender to score against in the NBA, helping him earn a spot on the All-Defensive team four times. The shooting guard averaged a relatively modest 16.1 points and 4.5 assists.
"Arguably, he helped form one of the greatest backcourts in NBA history, with Vinny (Johnson), Joe and myself," Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas said in a statement released by the New York Knicks, a franchise he leads as coach and president. "He was a Hall of Fame player and Hall of Fame person. His contributions to our game of basketball far exceed what he has done on the court."
Dumars was the good guy on the Bad Boys, a person respected so much that the NBA created the Joe Dumars Trophy after he won the league's sportsmanship award following the 1995-96 season.
"To the people closest to me, that awards means as much or more than anything," he said. "It solidifies how you carried yourself for a very long time in the public eye."
Dumars' path to the Hall of Fame began in the dusty backyard of his parents' home in Natchitoches, La.
"The light from a liquor store turned off at midnight, so that's when my imaginary games ended," he said. "In the summer, I bet I spent about six hours a day out there shooting -- mostly by myself. My mom and dad always knew where I was because they could hear me dribbling."
Dumars will be presented by Thomas in Springfield, Mass., where people from Louisiana and Michigan will gather to celebrate.
"The most special thing will be that people from my childhood, college and NBA career will all be there with me in one place for the first time in my life," Dumars said. "It's going to be an overwhelming and emotional time for me."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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