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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hell of a Hall Tribute...

This story ran on Page 1-A of the Springfield Republicaan and is currently posted on the home page of - as it breaks the news of the details of the "Celebration of Basketball" to take place this coming August when the Basketball Hall of Fame welcomes its Class of 2010.

Story is by Columnist Ron Chimelis:

Basketball Hall of Fame expands 2010 enshrinement celebration to bring 70 basketball greats, week-long schedule of events to Springfield

 SPRINGFIELD - John L. Doleva said the dazzling nature of last year’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement celebration, with the induction of superstar Michael Jordan, created an assumption that 2010 would be quiet by comparison.

Not true, the Hall of Fame’s president and chief executive officer said Wednesday.

Instead, the Hall of Fame has unveiled a weeklong program of Enshrinement 2010 events that dwarfs all previous celebrations of the game’s Springfield’s origins and will involve the city itself to an unprecedented degree.

And Jordan is expected to be among the greats of the game who will be in town for the festivities; in fact, it’s predicted this enshrinement will have the greatest number of Hall of Fame alumni returning to the city of basketball’s birth and ever gathered in one venue, officials say.

“We found that our greatest asset was our Hall of Famers,” Doleva said.
Featured in the weeklong festivities will be the unveiling of a monument at the corner of State Street and Wilbraham Road in the city’s Mason Square neighborhood to showcase the site where the first basketball game was played in 1891.

Enshrinement Week will begin Aug. 7 and run through Aug. 14, a shift from the September schedule of recent years.

Induction of eight individuals - including late Boston Celtics star Dennis Johnson, Karl “The Mailman” Malone, one of Jordan’s teammates from the NBA championship Chicago Bulls, Scottie Pippen - and two entire teams - the 1960 and 1992 U.S. Olympic teams - will take place at Symphony Hall on Aug. 13.

The calendar move accommodates basketball personalities involved with the World Basketball Championships, which will be held from late August to mid-September in Turkey.

Enshrinement Week is expected to pump $5 million into the local economy, Doleva said. It is hoped the move to August will spark additional interest and attendance with the dates in the midst of the summer travel season, he said. It’s also likely the scheduling time frame could become permanent, according to Doleva.

This year’s enshrinement should also provide a spectacular follow-up to the 2009 celebration, which put the global spotlight on Springfield. It was that collection of talent, who also included this year’s individual inductees Malone and Pippen, which introduced the term “Dream Team” to the American vocabulary.

The lead-up to enshrinement will bring the city of Springfield into the Hall of Fame celebration as never before, Doleva said.

Central to that effort will the installation of a permanent monument in Mason Square to identify the site of the first basketball game.

It was played in 1891 in the gymnasium of what was then known as the School of Christian Workers; the school later became Springfield College. The location is now occupied by a McDonald’s restaurant.

Proposed by a Mason Square resident, Aaron Williams, the monument has a projected cost of $200,000, and fund-raising efforts have yielded donations from the world of basketball, the Chicago Bulls, and from the Western Massachusetts community, including Springfield College, MassMutual Financial Group, Bay State Gas and Palmer Paving.

The monument will have two facets, an installation near the McDonald’s restaurant and a second installation, including two brass statues of vintage and modern-day players and information panels, across State Street near the current home of the Urban League. The two pieces, as well as the Hall of Fame on the riverfront, are to be linked by beams of light.

The monument unveiling and celebration, widely endorsed by municipal and neighborhood groups, will see a section of State Street shut down on Aug. 8 for a “First Game Celebration.” It will coincide with the Nike World Basketball Festival in New York City and include a game here between the Puerto Rico 18-Under National Team and a New England all-star team of young players.

The week’s activities will also include wheelchair basketball and performances by the U.S. men’s and women’s Paralympic teams on Aug. 9, a Children’s Day on Aug. 10, and a recognition ceremony for great high school coaches and a 96-team AAU “Enshrinement Classic” tournament on Aug. 11.

The tournament is expected to bring approximately 1,000 players, in addition to family, coaches and friends, to Springfield.

A separate Hoops & Heroes 12-team tournament will be inaugurated on Aug. 7 and played at Springfield College. The final four of that tournament, which will feature teams of police, fire and other “first responder” personnel from across Massachusetts, will be played on the Hall of Fame’s center court on Aug. 8. It will benefit the Special Olympics.

Also being organized is a tribute to Hall of Fame player and coach John Wooden, who died June 4 at 99. Doleva said many of Wooden’s players, fellow coaches and Hall of Fame members have expressed an interest in having a tribute to Wooden.

For the enshrinement ceremonies, Jordan will be joined in Springfield by fellow Dream Team members and 2009 Hall of Fame inductees John Stockton and David Robinson, as well as Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and others.
Confirmation is being awaited on a handful of 1992 Olympians, including Boston Celtics great Larry Bird, and it remains possible the entire team will attend.

Along with Pippen, Malone and Johnson, the Class of 2010 includes the late Gus Johnson, WNBA superstar Cynthia Cooper, high school coaching legend Bob Hurley, Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Brazilian great Maciel “Ubiratan” Pereira.

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