Abdul-Jabbar, Stewart inducted into National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame

Updated: November 18, 2007, 10:35 PM ET
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Coaching greats Lefty Driesell and Norm Stewart lounged in arch-backed chairs telling stories. Former NBA player Len Elmore lingered nearby chatting with former Notre Dame star Austin Carr.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo made his way through the crowd, while Missouri's entire team took one-handed shots at a nearby basket.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerKareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks at the College Basketball Experience before being inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in
Kansas City, Mo.
Even with all those basketball luminaries in the room, one stood out, guests asking for autographs and photos, sneaking glances at the man in the center of a small circular room inside the new College Basketball Experience.

Eighteen years after he retired from the NBA, 38 years since he made his last sky hook for UCLA, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still the center of attention Sunday night at his induction to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I'm very honored to be up here with these gentlemen who are tonight's inductees,'' Abdul-Jabbar said prior to the induction ceremony. "It's a great honor.''

Abdul-Jabbar entered the Hall with former players Carr, Dick Groat and Dick Barnett, along with coaches Stewart, Driesell, Vic Bubas and Guy Lewis. Phog Allen, Henry Iba, Adolph Rupp and John McClendon also were honored as founding fathers.

Each inductee put a significant imprint on college basketball. None did it with quite the depth of Abdul-Jabbar.

Told he was too skinny to play professional basketball, Abdul-Jabbar was arguably the greatest player in college basketball history, anchoring a UCLA team that won three straight titles, losing just twice in 90 games.

The only player to be selected MVP of the NCAA tournament three straight times, Abdul-Jabbar went on to become one of the greatest players in NBA history, winning six championships, two finals MVP awards and becoming the league's leading scorer before being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.

But for all the points, all the awards and accolades, it was one shot that separated Abdul-Jabbar from the greats of the game: the sky hook. A shot he developed at the advice of a fifth-grade coach, the sky hook became the most unstoppable move in basketball -- maybe in any sport.

"It's a very effective tool even to this today,'' Abdul-Jabbar said. "The human physiology and the nature of basketball really aren't going to change, so it will always be an effective shot.''

The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame was created last year to honor players and coaches who have had a lasting impact on the game.

Members of the Naismith Hall of Fame are allowed in -- 152, including John Wooden, Dean Smith and Bill Russell were inducted in the inaugural last year -- but the college hall is an opportunity to recognize players and coaches whose impact may not have been limited to the college game.

This year's class fits those parameters perfectly.

A decent player in the NBA, Carr was a star at Notre Dame, finishing his career with the second-highest scoring average in NCAA history (to Pete Maravich) at 34.6 points per game. He also holds several NCAA tournament records, including most points in a game, with 61, and scoring average at 41.3.

Groat was best known for his abilities on a baseball field, playing 14 seasons in the majors and winning the 1960 batting title, but was a superb basketball player at Duke, earning player of the year honors in 1951.

Barnett led Tennessee A&I State to three straight NAIA championships, winning tournament MVP honors the last two years. The Tigers' title in 1957 was the first time a historically black college had won a national tournament.

Stewart is a local favorite, having played and coached a few hours down the road at Missouri. He won the Tigers' only national championship, in baseball in 1954, and was named national coach of the year twice, leading his team to the NCAA tournament 16 times.

The originator of Midnight Madness, Driesell was the only coach in NCAA history to win 100 games with four schools and turned Maryland into a national power in his 17 seasons there.

Lewis, who was too ill to attend the ceremonies, led Houston to five Final Four appearances and 27 consecutive winning seasons, including the 1983 "Phi Slamma Jamma'' team that came within seconds of a national title.

Bubas accomplished the rare feat of participating in the Final Four as a player with North Carolina State Wolf Pack, as a coach at Duke and as an administrator with the Sun Belt Conference.

Each had different accomplishments, but with lasting significance -- and a place to be recognized.

"To be quite candid, I think the other Hall of Fame was going just in one direction,'' Stewart said. "So the college basketball hall of fame is set up to take care of those people, to recognize our own. To recognize history, you know where you've been. And if you know where you've been, you might have some idea of where you're going.''


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press