Global philanthropist and second all-time leading shot-blocker Dikembe Mutombo and University of Kentucky coach John Calipari headline the 2015 class of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.
Announced on Monday at a press event in Indianapolis, other notable names of the 11-member group include: four-time All-Star Spencer Haywood; seven-time All-Star and two-time champion Jo Jo White; ironman NBA referee Dick Bavetta; and three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie.
The elected honorees must receive at least 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for inclusion. The enshrinement ceremony for the Class of 2015 will take place on September 11.
Mutombo, who retired following a storied 18-year career in 2009, was chosen for the Hall in his first year of availability. The 7’2 Congo native burst on the scene as a rookie with the Denver Nuggets in 1991-1992 following a standout career at Georgetown University. He led the Nuggets to one of the most memorable upsets in postseason history two years later, when his eighth-seeded squad defeated the 63-19 Seattle Supersonics.
The affable big man made sizable on- and off- court impacts at each of his six NBA stops. The eight-time All-Star guided the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers – best known for the presence of Allen Iverson, but most successful for their defensive dominance – to the NBA Finals following a midseason trade from the Atlanta Hawks, winning his fourth and final Defensive Player of the Year award in the process at 34 years-old. A nearly 40 year-old Mutombo was a key part of the injury-depleted Houston Rockets team that reeled off 22 consecutive victories from late January to mid March of 2008.
A two-time J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner, Mutombo is one of the most accomplished professional athletes in the field of humanitarianism. He has own foundation to aid living conditions in Congo, received the President’s Service Award in 1999, and currently serves on UNICEF’s Board of Directors.
The finger-wagging, 48 year-old Mutombo is as deserving an all-around inductee as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has ever seen.
Like his classmate’s, Calipari’s impact on the basketball world is far from finished.
The 56 year-old just led the Wildcats to the first 38-0 beginning in the history of the NCAA before they fell to Wisconsin in the Final Four over the weekend. He won his only national championship with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and company in 2012, and has guided his teams to six NCAA Tournament Regional Championship – two of which have since been vacated due to violation of the NCAA’s amateurism rules.
College basketball’s top incubator of top-level talent, Calipari has coached 31 NBA players on the amateur level, including three number one overall draft picks. He’s the only coach to produce five first-round picks in a single draft, a record that he could break depending on how many of this season’s Wildcats enter the 2015 draft.
Recently, there’s been momentum suggesting that Calipari’s long-anticipated return to the NBA – he coached the New Jersey Nets to two unsuccessful seasons in 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 before being fired early in the 1998-1999 campaign – could come later this year. Though the three-time Naismith College Coach of the Year will surely have his pick of job openings, he’s yet to publicly comment on that matter.
Congratulations to not just Mutombo and Calipari, but each member of the Naismith Class of 2015!
[Video via NBA Channel]