African-born NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo and fellow NBA All-Stars Spencer Haywood and Jo Jo White were among six people announced on Monday as 2015 inductees to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Joining them in receiving the honour for career achievements were 39-year NBA referee Dick Bavetta, three-time US college Coach of the Year John Calipari and three-time Women’s NBA Most Valuable Player Lisa Leslie.
All received at least 18 of 24 votes from the Honours Committee of the sport shrine, which will stage induction ceremonies September 11 at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Also to be inducted this year are five previously announced direct-elect honourees from various Hall committees, including long-time Australian player and coach Lindsay Gaze, early pioneer John Isaacs, contributor George Raveling, former player and coach Tom Heinsohn and 1970s standout Louis Dampier.
“The Class of 2015 is a group of outstanding individuals who represent many eras and facets of basketball,” said Hall of Fame board chairman Jerry Colangelo.
“Their commitment to the game is undeniable and the impact they have had on others is even greater. We are very pleased to honour this remarkable group of inductees.”
Mutombo, an eight-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the year from the Democratic Republic of Congo, led the league in blocked shots for five seasons in a row from 1993-94 to 1997-98, his sideways finger wag motion after blocks becoming a trademark.
In an NBA career that spanned 18 seasons from 1991 to 2009, Mutombo scored 11 729 points, grabbed 12 359 rebounds and blocked 3 289 shots.
Four-time All-Star Haywood from 12 NBA seasons from 1970 to 1983, scoring 14 592 points and pulling down 7 038 rebounds and helping the Los Angeles Lakers win the 1980 NBA title. He was also the top scorer on the 1968 US Olympic gold medal squad.
Seven-time NBA All-Star White helped the Boston Celtics win the 1974 and 1976 NBA crowns. He was the 1976 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and over 12 NBA campaigns averaged 17.2 points, 4.9 assists and 4.0 rebounds a game. He was also a member of the 1968 US gold medal Olympic squad.
Bavetta officiated 2 635 consecutive regular-season games over 39 years from 1975 to 2014, setting the US ironman pro sports referee mark last April. He handled 27 NBA Finals games and in 1992 became the first NBA official to referee in the Olympics.
Calipari coached the University of Kentucky to an undefeated regular season over the past few months before the Wildcats were beaten by Wisconsin on Saturday in the US college tournament semifinals. He won his third Coach of the Year award in 2015.
Calipari created powerhouse college teams at Massachusetts and Memphis before taking over Kentucky in 2009. The Wildcats won the 2012 US college crown and this year reached the semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons.
Leslie, an eight-time WNBA All-Star and three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player, is the WNBA all-time leader in total rebounds with 3 307 and ranks second in all-time blocks with 822.
She became the first player to dunk in a WNBA contest. Leslie helped the Los Angeles Sparks win the 2001 and 2002 WNBA crowns and played on the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 US Olympic gold medal teams.