Highly-emotional Dennis Rodman on Friday night cried his way into the Naismith Basketball Memorial Hall of Fame Class of 2011.
Rodman and fellow-NBA star Chris Mullin were the headliners for the enshrinement of 10 new inductees, honoured during a star-studded celebration at Springfield, Massachusetts, where basketball began more than a century ago.
They were joined by legendary ABA and NBA centre Artis Gilmore; Lithuanian great Arvydas Sabonis; women's star Teresa Edwards; unsung Tom "Satch" Sanders of the 1960's Boston Celtics dynasty teams; Herb Magee, college's all-time wins leader; Stanford women's coach Tara VanDerveer; coach Tex Winter, the architect of the triangle offence and Harlem Globetrotters funny man Reece "Goose" Tatum.
Mullin, a five-time All-Star selection during his 16 NBA seasons with Golden State and Indiana, and member of two Olympic gold medal squads, including the 1992 U.S Dream Team, tipped off the ceremonies by thanking his St John's college coach Lou Carnsecca along with two elderly nuns in front of a packed house of legends.
"They've been watching my game since I was eight years old," said Mullin, referring to sisters Katherine and Mercedes. "I thank you for your prayers and divine intervention. At my age, when you still know you have two 90-year-old nuns praying for you, life is very good."
Rodman, a five-time NBA Champion, who won seven consecutive rebound crowns during his wildly-entertaining 14-year career, capped the emotional evening by breaking down on stage after hugging former Chicago Bulls coach and presenter Phil Jackson.
Wearing a black suit with sneakers and multiple ring piercings in his ears, nose and lips, Rodman, 50, had to step away from the microphone several times, too choked up to carry on.
"It wasn't Dennis Rodman," he said fighting back the tears. "I didn't play the game for the money. I didn't play the game to be famous. What you see here was just an illusion. I wanted to be an individual that's very colourful."
Rodman thanked the NBA community and commissioner David Stern for "keeping him alive," after climbing out of the low income projects and leading an often times flamboyant lifestyle.
"This league has been very good to me," he said. "I could have been dead. I could have been a drug dealer. I could have been homeless."
Claiming to be oldest of an unfathomable 47 children by a father, who abandoned the family when he was five years old, Rodman was raised by his mother. However, he praised his coaches, Chuck Daly, Jackson, (agent) Dwight Manley, and LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss for being the father figure he never had.
"Those guys have had an impact on my life," he said. "You talk about having a mentor, a father figure or someone you can look up to and talk to any time of the day; a shoulder to cry on or a hand to shake. These guys would show up."
Rodman expressed regrets for not being a better family man.
"I haven't been a great father or husband, and I can't laugh about that," he said. "I just wish I could be a better son to my mother and father to my kids."
Gilmore starred for Kentucky of the old ABA, where the dominant centre was named the league most valuable player in 1972, after taking the Colonels to the championship. When the league's merged in 1976, the "A-Train" became a six-time NBA All-Star with Chicago and San Antonio.
"Millions of people have laced up their sneakers since Dr (James) Naismith invented the game several miles from here in 1891, and every one of them would love to be in my shoes today," he said.
Sabonis, widely recognized as one of the all-time big men overseas, was twice named the European Player of the Year. After helping the Soviet Union win the Olympic gold medal in 1988, he later led his native Lithuania to the bronze. He joined the NBA Portland Trail Blazers from 1995-2003, but was slowed by injuries.
"This is a very special day for me, for my country," Sabonis said. "I'm very proud to be here."
Edwards was the first American basketball player to compete in five Olympic Games. The two-time All-America from the University of Georgia took home the gold medal four times and a bronze.
Sanders was a member of eight NBA championship teams with the Celtics from 1961-69 and later coached them. He became instrumental in the development of the NBA's Rookie Transition Program and was a founder of the player programs for the league.
Magee has coached Philadelphia University to an NCAA record 922 victories since taking over the helm of the Division II school in 1966.
VanDerveer has racked up more than 800 coaching victories since 1978 and been named coach of the year four times. Currently at Stanford, she has guided the Cardinal to a pair of NCAA championships and taken the U.S. women to Olympic gold in 1996.
Winter came to the Chicago Bulls as an assistant to Phil Jackson after compiling a 454-333 record in college. Recognized as the architect of the triangle offence, the Bulls ran it successfully, winning six NBA titles in the 1990's and three more with the LA Lakers.
Tatum, enshrined posthumously, was regarded as the original clown prince of the Globetrotters, entertaining fans all over the world, with crowd-pleasing routines for more than 25 years before passing away in 1967.
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