Sept. 14, 2007
MADRID, Spain -- Boston Celtics great Bill Russell and former North Carolina coach Dean Smith were among 20 former players, coaches and technicians inducted into FIBA's Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Russell, winner of 11 NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal, led a list of 12 players from 10 different countries, while Smith headlined the four coaches.
"I have to thank all of my teammates going back to high school for being here today," said Russell, who averaged 22.5 rebounds in his 13 NBA seasons. "The game of basketball helps teach you how to take care of your teammates. I learned some important life lessons. It's a beautiful game."
Smith led North Carolina to two titles and guided the United States to gold at the 1976 Montreal Games.
"I know the three of us from the United States feel very lucky to be in this situation," Smith said.
Phoenix Mercury general manager Ann Meyers Drysdale was one of three women inducted. She was a four-time All-American at UCLA and a silver medalist with the U.S. Olympic team in 1976.
Hortencia Marcari, who averaged 24.4 points in 137 international games with Brazil, was included as well as Latvia's Uljana Semjonova. Semjonova, a 6-foot-10 center, never lost an international match -- racking up 10 European championships, three worlds and two Olympic golds -- in an 18-year playing for the former Soviet Union.
FIBA selected the 20 from more than 200 nominations received from its member federations. NBA greats Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson didn't make the cut, though they can be submitted again in two years when the next batch is selected.
Greece guard Nikos Galis, a former Seton Hall guard who averaged over 30 points in a 16-year Greece career that included a European title in 1987, was inducted in front of over two dozen Greece fans.
"He's a god, he was basketball in Greece," said 22-year-old Yianis Katsimpbras, who was among a group of 150 Greek fans in Madrid for the European Championship. "He came from the U.S. and taught us basketball."
Former FIBA president Borislav Stankovic, Serbia star Drazen Dalipagic and Argentina forward Oscar Furlong, who once turned down a playing contract with the Minneapolis Lakers, also were inducted.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press