By Casey Bannon
CHARLOTTE, N.C.– The 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame finalists announcement felt like a 1980’s Milwaukee Bucks reunion. First-time finalists Jack Sikma and Marques Johnson joined Sidney Moncrief and coach Del Harris as part of the 13 finalists announced Friday at All-Star Weekend in Charlotte.
For added measure, Moncrief’s college coach at the University of Arkansas, Eddie Sutton, was also announced as a finalist.
“I’m so inspired and honored by these individuals on the stage,” Moncrief said to the group of nine past inductees who were present, which included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry, Artis Gilmore and Alex English among others. “Thank you for setting the trend for us and for making us better.”
Five-time NBA All-Star and “Fab Five” member Chris Webber will once again be eligible for Springfield after missing out in 2018.
Aside from the Milwaukee ties, the 2019 class featured a heavy dosage of lockdown defenders. First-time finalist and former Detroit Piston Ben Wallace, Bobby Jones, Teresa Weatherspoon and Moncrief all won multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards in their respective leagues.
Wallace took home the honor four times in his 16-year playing career after going undrafted from Virginia Union. Barbara Stevens, one of six NCAA coaches to reach 1000 wins, will also represent Division II schools in the group after leading her Bentley University team to a National Championship in 2014.
Other coaches making the cut are two-time NBA coach of the year Bill Fitch, Paul Westphal (who was nominated for his playing days before he spent 10 years as an NBA coach), and Leta Andrews, who is the winningest high school coach in history with 1,416 victories over more than 50 years in Texas. Hugh Evans was the lone referee in the class after a 28-year career that included 35 NBA Finals games.
“To be named a Finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor and we are proud to recognize the outstanding men and women who have impacted the game,” said Jerry Colangelo, Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “We congratulate our finalists and looking forward to revealing the Class of 2019 at the NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis this spring.”
For the first time in their history the hall also announced two recipients of the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award in the same year. Portland Tail Blazers co-founder Harry Glickman joined Harris, who spent 35 years as an assistant and head coach in the NBA, as the winners of the award.
NBA reporter Marc Stein and longtime Los Angeles Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler were also in attendance to accept the 2019 Curt Gowdy Media Award for their work in the print and electronic fields.
The full class of 2019 will also include those nominated and selected by the Early African-American Pioneers, International, Contributors, Veterans, and newly added Women Veterans’ Committees.
Finalists need 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee in order to be enshrined on September 7th in Springfield, Massachusetts.