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.
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
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