Former NBA Commissioner DAVID STERN during his Basketball HOF induction speech Friday night "preached the totality of basketball, and how everything comes back to the actual game -- to the hardwood, the leather ball and the baskets," according to Tom Westerholm of the Springfield REPUBLICAN. Five people accompanied former Stern to the stage, including HOFer BILL RUSSELL, whom Stern credited "for being a part of the NBA’s civil rights movement." Russell "retired long before Stern’s tenure as commissioner began, but he had a bigger impact on the game than anyone in history." The others on stage with Stern -- MAGIC JOHNSON, LARRY BIRD, RUSS GRANIK and BOB LANIER -- were "important members of basketball history, which was appropriate for Stern’s speech." Johnson and Bird "helped usher in Stern’s era by bringing joy, talent and creativity back to the sport." Granik served as Deputy Commissioner under Stern for 22 years and was, "as Stern put it, 'responsible for just a few things, like, for example, everything.'" Lanier "battled with Stern on a collective bargaining agreement and now serves as an ambassador for the game at home and overseas" (Springfield REPUBLICAN, 8/9).
FREEDOM OF SPEECH: ESPN N.Y.'s Ohm Youngmisuk wrote Stern during his speech was "promoting the NBA and deflecting attention from himself and his impact on the game of basketball and the league." Stern "kept his induction speech short, and thanked his wife and his family." He also "talked glowingly of the state of the game, its impact globally, and the NBA's initiatives in communities and values all over the world." Meanwhile, fellow '14 HOF inductee ALONZO MOURNING "delivered perhaps the most inspirational speech of the night, talking about all the obstacles he had to overcome" (ESPNNY.com, 8/8). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande wrote Stern's speech was "missing ... David Stern." Adande: "You know, the haughty, defiant Stern. The man who could be so condescending in public and tyrannical in private." Stern "was the headliner of this class, the man given the honor of going last." Adande: "For the most part, he was modest, not biting." Stern let his choices of Russell, Johnson, Bird, Granik and Lanier "serve as the backbone of his speech." They "represented the different elements that came together to make his reign so successful and allowed him to quickly summarize his three decades in office" (ESPN.com, 8/8).
UNIQUE GROUP: NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper wrote the '14 HOF class "framed so much about the league and the game." Mourning "was the toughness," while Lithuanian SARUNAS MARCIULIONIS "was the globalization." BOB LEONARD and MITCH RICHMOND "were the local ties, the grassroots feel of the league even as it grew into a conglomerate." Stern was "pretty much everything, of course." And while "some people get big names" to accompany them on stage at the HOF, "Stern gets Mt. Olympus." Stern said, "You've got to love the game. Everything we do is always about the game. Always about the game" (NBA.com, 8/9).