Nash, Kidd, Hill in 13-member Basketball Hall of Fame class
SAN ANTONIO — Steve Nash was an unsung Canadian kid who got one significant U.S. basketball scholarship offer. Jason Kidd was an Oakland hoops prodigy ticketed for superstardom from childhood.
After parallel careers that first crossed during college workouts a quarter-century ago, two of the best point guards of their generation are thrilled to be headed into the Basketball Hall of Fame together.
“It’s even more special when it’s with him, and with so many people you respect,” Nash said.
Nash, Kidd, Grant Hill and Ray Allen learned Saturday that they are among the 13-member Hall of Fame class that will be inducted in September.
The class also includes Maurice Cheeks, Tina Thompson, coach Lefty Driesell, Charlie Scott, longtime executive Rick Welts, NBA executive Rod Thorn, Katie Smith, the late Ora Mae Washington and Croatian star Dino Radja.
Most of the inductees appeared together before the Final Four semifinals in San Antonio, beginning the five-month stretch of togetherness before the ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts.
But Nash and Kidd have been linked since their teenage years for more than their sublime playmaking skills, and they’ve both provided assists to each other along the way.
They played nearly two seasons together with the Phoenix Suns from late 1996 to 1998, but their bond began in the Bay Area during their famed group workouts while Nash was at Santa Clara and Kidd was at California.
“He kept pushing me, and hopefully I pushed him to become a better player,” Kidd said. “Steve was always early, and he was always the last to leave, and he never gets tired. So when you have a workout partner like that, it will only make you better.”
Nash went on to become a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and an eight-time All-Star, while Kidd earned 10 All-Star selections and claimed a championship ring in Dallas in 2011.
They’re both also bonded with Hill, the seven-time NBA All-Star who won two NCAA titles at Duke. The trio’s professional careers all encompassed roughly the same two-decade stretch, and they exchanged excited text messages earlier this week when they learned of their impending Hall trip.
“I’m just following Steve and Grant around,” Kidd said with a grin. “I was (NBA) co-rookie of the year with Grant, I’ve known Steve forever, and now we’re going into this class together. I said, ‘Whatever you do next, I’m going to go with you there, too.’”
Allen, a 10-time All-Star, is the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history and a two-time league champion whose career also encompassed roughly the same two-decade stretch as his three fellow inductees.
The class also includes two giants of the modern women’s game. Thompson was the first draft choice in WNBA history and a four-time league champion, while Smith is the top scorer in women’s professional basketball history.
Driesell, best known for his 17 seasons at Maryland, is the only NCAA coach to win 100 games at four different schools. Scott is a five-time NBA All-Star who also excelled in the ABA.
Driesell drew laughs when the Hall of Famers got together with his still-dry wit: “I think it’s more for my players and my coaching staffs and my trainers and athletic directors that hired me than it is for me, because I’m 86 years old. I want them to enjoy it. I probably won’t be around too long to enjoy it ... but it’s just a big honor and a thrill.”
Scott, the first black scholarship athlete at North Carolina before his championship-winning NBA career with the Suns and Boston Celtics, shared his enormous mutual respect for Driesell.
“If people don’t know it, if it wasn’t for Lefty, there would be no Charlie Scott,” Scott said. “He was the guy who first recruited me (to Davidson). And I guess he hated it, but he put my name in the newspaper, and that was when Coach (Dean) Smith saw it, and that’s when Coach Smith started recruiting me.”
Driesell laughed that he would have been in the Hall of Fame much earlier if Scott had come to Davidson.
Cheeks is a four-time NBA All-Star and one of the greatest defensive point guards in hoops history. The Philadelphia 76ers great played the same position as Kidd and Nash, but at a different time in the game’s evolution.
“When I was playing, (the job) was making sure I was taking care of my players,” Cheeks said. “I would have been crazy not to get the ball to Julius (Erving) and Moses (Malone).”
Welts, the first openly gay NBA executive, has worked in several aspects of the game, including the launch of the WNBA. The former president of the Phoenix Suns, he became the Warriors’ president and chief of operations in 2011.
Thorn has a lengthy career as a player, coach and executive. He served as the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations between stints in the front offices of the Bulls and Nets.
Radja was one of the greatest European players of his generation. The Croatian scorer also played four seasons for the Boston Celtics.
Washington (1898-1971) was a spectacular athlete who excelled at tennis but also played on 11 consecutive Women’s Colored Basketball World’s Championship teams.