A dozen of basketball’s greatest earned the highest honor Friday night in Springfield, and it was a big night if you liked UCLA (Reggie Miller, Jamaal Wilkes and Don Barksdale) or Nike, sneakers and ad campaigns (Phil Knight, period). But that’s glossing over the fun of the night, where you always get to hear some stories from the greats that seem to peel back the cover of what basketball was like in their day. Miller was the last man to the podium of the huge class as its no-doubt headliner, and was introduced by not only his sister, Cheryl, but Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley. While we have to say no one’s speech topped Michael Jordan‘s for sheer ego, one of Miller’s stories involved MJ. Reggie admitted to shoving him in the ’98 Eastern Conference Finals to get open for the game-winner of Game 4 (that’s the shot that kept him spinning around like a deranged fan of the Disneyland teapot ride, while winning coach Larry Bird looked on as excited as a guy with food poisoning). Then he admitted he also pushed down Greg Anthony — and pinned him — to get open in the eight points in 8.9 second stretch in 1995 against the Knicks. The funny thing is, we all knew that Reg. What, you thought we thought MJ was pushing off on you? Or that you were checking on Greg’s condition? Don’t get us wrong, we love those stories, though. What about this, too: Spike Lee‘s been a Knicks fan since the 70s, but does he become the biggest celebrity fan in pop culture if Reggie doesn’t call him out? We’re not so sure. Those two needed each other at that time, just like we still need to watch that replay of his 25 points in the fourth quarter in ’94 against the Knicks. We all love a villain in sports deep down a little bit, and Reggie wore that black hat better and more willingly than almost anyone in NBA history. … Knight’s the interesting guy, whose own involvement made the NBA what it is today. It’s gotta be the shoes, of course. But Knight also had this, uh, interesting comparison with MJ — Mr. Capitalist — and some world leaders. “He is to the sporting goods industry what Nathan Hale, Patrick Henry, Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung were to world politics.” For some reason we don’t think the last two would agree with MJ. … We caught part of the re-run of the 2011 Hall of Fame induction earlier in the day if only because all of the inductees had to walk past Dennis Rodman and his silver suit/faux fur cowboy hat in the front row. Pretty hilarious juxtaposition. … About a month ago The New York Times had a crazy story about how small Jay-Z‘s actual investment in the Nets is. It’s less than one-fifteenth of one percent, which just goes to show how smart the Nets have been about leveraging his involvement (when he isn’t separating himself from the team when they suck, that is…) even if the investment wasn’t that large. So now it’s the Grizzlies’ turn to go to the star minority ownership playbook, what with Justin Timberlake being interested in joining Robert Pera‘s ownership group. So if Jay’s got a 40/40 club in the Barclays among his many business ventures from the outside joining with the Nets, can we expect to see Grizz fans walking in Memphis’ concourse shopping for William Rast denim, or possibly topping off another shot of his 901 tequila brand? … Hit the jump to hear about J.R. Smith‘s expanding role with the Knicks.
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