By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer
The timing couldn’t be more perfect to hear that Sacramento Kings legends Chris Webber and coach Rick Adelman, as well as Sacramento Monarchs star Yolanda Griffith, were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last weekend.
As part of the 18-member class of 2021, National Basketball Association (NBA) legend Bill Russell, who coached the Kings in 1987-88, was selected to the Hall as a coach. Russell was first inducted as a player 46 years ago.
Within two years, three professional basketball players and two coaches from Sacramento will have been enshrined in Springfield, Mass., on Saturday, Sept. 11. Vlade Divac, who played for the Kings and recently served as their general manager, was inducted into the Hall in 2019.
“We are incredibly proud that four integral individuals in our organization’s history are being honored in the 2021 Hall of Fame class,” said Sacramento Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé. “Each of them earned a special place in the Kings family and in the hearts of our community, leaving an eternal impact on our franchise that inspires across generations.”
Rounding out the Hall class of 2021 are Val Ackerman, Chris Bosh, Michael Cooper, Bob Dandridge, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Howard Garfinkel, Lauren Jackson, Clarence Jenkins, Toni Kukoc, Pearl Moore, Paul Pierce, Marianne Stanley, Ben Wallace and Jay Wright.
Webber, “C-Webb,” a former number one pick who was the 1993-94 NBA Rookie of the Year, becomes the 16th player in franchise history and the third during the Sacramento-era to earn a Hall of Fame induction, joining Divac and Mitch Richmond.
Webber, who played seven seasons for Sacramento, was named to five All-Star teams, five All-NBA teams, and finished top-10 in Most Valuable Player (MVP) voting five times. He is 26th all time in minutes per game (37.1) and 52nd in career points per game (20.7).
Webber, who now serves as a color analyst, is in the top 100 for NBA career rebounds, steals, blocks, minutes and points. At 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, Weber averaged 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists during his 15-year career.
During the “Fab-Five” era, Webber spent two seasons with the “Fab-Five” at the University of Michigan, where he, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson reached the 1992 and 1993 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championships.
Webber’s Kings jersey No. 4 was retired by the team on Feb. 6, 2009, and hangs in the rafters at Golden 1 Center among fellow franchise greats.
“I’m just thankful, man. Thankful to all the people, family members, and friends,” Webber told his childhood friend and Michigan teammate Rose on ESPN after learning of his selection. “I’m just in shock. Still in shock. I really don’t know what to say.”
After the American Basketball League (ABL) folded, the Sacramento Monarchs drafted Griffith with the second overall selection in the 1999 WNBA draft. She led the Monarchs to the WNBA championship in 2005 while being named to the all-WNBA first team and WNBA all-defensive first team the same season. Griffith earned WNBA All-Star honors seven times (1999-2001, 2003, 2005-07) and is a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2000, 2004).
In 1999, Griffith earned WNBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, while leading the league in field goals, rebounds, offensive rebounds and steals per game. Griffith became a member of the WNBA’s All-Decade Team in 2006 and was listed among the league’s “20@20” – a list of the 20 best players of its first 20 years – in 2016.
Griffith was definitely hungry for success when she put on a Monarchs uniform. She went to the University of Iowa on a scholarship, dropped out of sight when she had a baby and ended up playing at Palm Beach Community College before playing at Florida Atlantic.
Griffith once had a job repossessing cars to put food on the table. She now is an assistant coach for the Boston College Eagles.
“My journey was like a rocky, roller coaster ride but I owe it all to my family,” Griffith said in an ESPN interview. “Without my family, none of this would be possible. This is for them.”
Adelman becomes the second head coach in the Kings’s franchise history and the first during the Sacramento-era to achieve the honors. As the winningest coach in franchise history, Adelman guided the Kings to eight consecutive playoff appearances (1999-2006).
Adelman also guided five straight seasons with 50 wins or more (2000-01 to 2004-05). Adelman recorded his 700th career win with a 112-93 victory over Portland at ARCO Arena on March 22, 2005. He became the winningest coach in franchise history on March 19, 2004 when Sacramento defeated the Pacers, 94-92, in Indiana.
Across eight seasons with the Kings, Adelman posted an overall record of 395-229 (.633) and a 34-35 (.493) record in the NBA playoffs.
Russell, known throughout basketball circles as the greatest champion in NBA history with 11 titles, served as one of the first Kings head coaches in the Sacramento-era. On April 16, 1966, Russell made history by becoming the NBA’s first Black head coach when he assumed duties for Red Auerbach with the Boston Celtics.
As an NBA head coach, Russell posted an overall record of 341-290 in the regular season and 34-27 in the playoffs. Originally enshrined as a player in 1975, Russell becomes the fifth Hall of Fame member who will be inducted as both a player and a coach.
“Congratulations, Chris, Rick, Yolanda and Bill on this prestigious recognition,” said Ranadive.