The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inducted nine new living members on Sept. 10 as part of its Class of 2022.
Inducted this year were NBA players Manu Ginobili and Tim Hardaway; WNBA players Lindsay Whalen and Swim Cash; coaches George Karl, Bob Huggins, and Marianne Stanley; and coaches Del Harris and Theresa Shank-Grentz, who were elected by the contributor/veterans committee.
As a long standing tradition, former Hall of Fame members are selected by each inductee to present them as they enter the Hall. This year’s list of more than 30 presenters included basketball greats Jerry West, Tim Duncan, Isiah Thomas, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin, Reggie Miller, Billy Cunningham, Dawn Staley, Charles Barkley, Tamika Catchings, Lisa Leslie, Geno Auriemma and more.
With the Class of 2022 inductees and an impressive list of presenters, I sorted out and packed 20 items to get signed over the four days of the weekend induction celebration. I set out to get all 20 items signed, but that certainly was a lofty goal.
The first four items were two mini-basketballs for Reggie Miller and Isiah Thomas for a collection of the NBA Top 75 players announced earlier this year, as well as mini-basketballs for Lindsay Whalen and one other WNBA 25 player (I was hoping for Lauren Jackson, Seimone Augustus or Maya Moore).
I thought the most difficult would be Miller, but he signed a few items coming off the red carpet at the induction ceremony, and I was lucky enough to be the first to get to him. He grabbed my pen, signed for a young boy next to me, and then signed by mini-ball. I was very grateful and lucky to be one of a few to get Miller, but I sure wish the quality of the signature was like the young boy got on his poster. I was able to get all four mini-balls signed, with the uncertain fourth ball autographed by Augustus.
The next four items were unused game tickets for the 1,000th coaching wins of George Karl, Gregg Popovich, Vivian Stringer and Geno Auriemma. I collect a lot of game tickets I have gathered over the years.
My first autographs came on Thursday when I spotted Karl, who was great about signing two 1,000-win tickets. I caught Auriemma heading into one event as he stopped to sign two basketball for two young women.
It was a tough decision as to whom to approach first after the Saturday night induction ceremony. It is always over fast and you only have opportunities to get one or two Hall of Famers. I decided to approach Stringer and she was happy to sign both 1,000-win tickets I had for her.
Popovich was sitting only a few rows from Stringer, but when I looked up, he was already about 20 people ahead of me in a very crowded aisle. Popovich was in front of David Robinson and a couple of other Spurs when he stopped right before the exit. I caught up to him and was able to ask for the autograph, but he declined. He did stop and sign a card for the same young boy who was next to me for Reggie Miller. I asked again and he said, “I did not want to turn this into an autograph session.” I pleaded that I had sent him a 1,000-win ticket through the Spurs a couple of years ago and it was never returned, but I was still unsuccessful. He left after signing only the one autograph.
I also packed a WNBA debut ticket and a WNBA final-game ticket for Tamika Catchings and an unused 76ers ticket remembering the pro debut for Charles Barkley (not his actual debut). I was able to get all three signed.
Barkley was great in the awards and induction paid events and was likely the best signer of the weekend in those events. Outside of those events, Barkley was great about posing for pictures but I did not see him sign items for fans.
Not in my original grouping of 20 items, I also got an NBA preseason debut ticket signed by Ben Wallace (HOF 2021).
Walt Frazier was also in attendance as the winner of the Curt Gowdy Award for Electronic Media. Frazier was welcoming with photo opportunities, but I did not see him sign a single autograph, not even for ticket holders of the awards ceremony. I did not have any Frazier items on my list as he had recently signed two items for me in my hometown where he was the keynote speaker.
Two hats were in my group of 20, a Golden State Warriors hat for the Run-TMC trio of Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin and a Kansas Jayhawks hat for Roy Williams (I already had Bill Self and Larry Brown sign the hat).
Hardaway was a great signer all weekend and the first to sign the hat. At the awards dinner on Friday night, I approached Richmond and he reluctantly signed as well. He was very nice and smiled as I persuaded him to sign. Five minutes later, I saw Chris Mullin. He declined at first, but I said “I needed the C in TMC.” Mullin then shouted over to Richmond, “Did you sign this hat?” After some back-and-forth banter, Mullin finally said, “Mitch, should I sign this hat for him?” Thankfully, Mitch said yes.
Both Mullin and Richmond were tough to get and did not sign many autographs over the weekend. I tried both on another item the next day and both declined. Mullin’s wife, Liz, even stepped in to express dissatisfaction at the hat signing on Friday and dissuaded Richmond from signing for me on Saturday. Roy Williams was great about signing the Kansas hat.
Also in the 20 items were two jerseys: a WNBA referee shirt for all the WNBA players present; and a Kobe Bryant jersey I started to honor the NBA Top 75 players. I needed Nate Archibald on that jersey, but Archibald, who had a heart transplant in Dec. 2018, was not able to attend as a planned presenter.
For the Kobe jersey, I did a twist on the NBA 75, deciding on my own Top 75 among living NBA players as of 2022. That change was needed when, in 2021, I had Ginobili sign the jersey hoping he would make the 75th team. So I had to decide which 15 players I would add in place of those now deceased. With the twist, I was able to not only add George Gervin and Gary Payton to the jersey, but also Tony Parker and Alex English.
The WNBA referee shirt turned out to be an excellent idea as I was able to add all 10 of the WNBA greats in attendance. I was able to have Whalen, Cash, Catchings, Leslie, Augustus, Staley, Tina Thompson, Theresa Weatherspoon, Yolanda Griffith, and Nancy Lieberman Cline all sign the shirt.
Finally in the group of 20 items were six flat items, the first being a Leroy Neiman 1977 NBA All-Star poster. I thought this would represent a challenge as it is a large 24-by-36 poster and impossible to carry into the paid events. I needed Gervin, and luckily he signed for a group of about 10 people late one night (or should I say morning).
I also got a huge bonus with Rudy Tomjanovich also attending this year. Tomjanovich was the last living Hall of Famer I needed to sign the poster. Of the 17 Hall of Famers to play in that game, I have it signed by all except Pete Maravich and John Havlicek. I’m not sure I can frame it just yet as Tomjanovich, Bobby Jones and Paul Westphal have all been inducted in recent years. The next closest seems to be Maurice Lucas, who scored 14,857 points and made five All-Star Game appearances.
Other flats were an art postcard of Jerry West; a number of 1976-77 Topps tall cards; an unfinished 1999 inaugural WNBA All-Star Game program; and either a rookie card or 10,000-point milestone ticket for Ginobili.
West was only in Springfield for a couple of hours as he flew in during the afternoon prior to the induction ceremony and left a third of the way through the ceremony. He did sign five autographs as he left so I did get the art card signed.
I also got the 1976-77 Topps tall cards signed by Jones and Tomjanovich, but was unsuccessful with one for Billy Cunningham.
The same late night Gervin signed for me, Theresa Weatherspoon and Tina Thompson were together and both stopped to sign the inaugural program. So that is now up-to-date with the seven Hall of Fame members selected for the first WNBA All-Star Game. But I know I am not done with that program, as future Hall of Famers could include Chamique Holdsclaw, Ticha Penicheiro or others from that first WNBA All-Star game.
I had no success with Ginobili. I had my best opportunity when he left a dinner party one night. There were just two people waiting outside for him, just me and my friend. I know of three instances where he did sign one-on-one, but outside of the Hall of Fame autograph session, those were the only three signatures done by Ginobili that I am aware of.
Which brings me to the last of the 20 items — the Class of 2022 Enshrinement Program. I was able to get eight of the living members to sign the program, but left without the Ginobili to complete it. A fully signed program is pretty rare.
The rest of the class was great. While Dell Harris and Bob Huggins were a bit more difficult, both signed at times over the weekend. Maybe I can finish the program when Ginobili comes back in 2023 for former teammate Tony Parker’s likely induction.
Readers might wonder why I did not include an item for Tim Duncan. I have to say it would have been a challenge that I did not see happening. Duncan was not a willing signer at his induction in May 2021, and I do not think he signed more than one or two this year as well.
On Friday, Sept. 9, the Hall of Fame and Panini held an autograph session featuring the nine living members of the Class of 2022 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT. For $300, fans could get one item singed by each of the nine. The price jumped to $500 for a limited-edition Class of 2022 full-sized basketball with the nine signatures, which turned out to be a popular item.
One item I did note coming out of the session was a signed Wheaties box for Ginobili as well as many signed Ginobili jerseys. I was surprised at the quality of the Ginobili signatures from that session. I thought the signature I received from him in 2021 was far superior and even included the letters “MANU.” You can see from the Wheaties box and basketball images that those letters were not part of his 2022 autographs.
I did not purchase the autograph session this year because I thought between the reunion and awards dinner, the gala and induction ceremony or around the grounds of the Hall of Fame or Mohegan Sun, I could finish what I packed. Except for Ginobili and Popovich that was true as I got 17 of the 20 items signed.
The ticket costs for the awards dinner was $600 and the gala and induction was also $600. If I could do it over, I would have purchased two of the autograph session tickets and eliminated one of the events I attended. When you add three nights in hotels and gas, it was an expensive weekend, but I have been hooked on the Hall for 32 straight years now. My streak of consecutive inductions now stands at 32 (since 1991).
Other Hall of Famers who attended the weekend celebration were: David Robinson, Joe Dumars, Rod Thorn, Cathy Rush, John Calipari, Sidney Moncrief, Bill Walton, Spencer Haywood, Jamaal Wilkes, Wayne Embry, Bob Dandridge, Jay Wright and Carol Blazejowski.
The Class of 2022 also included four recently deceased members: Lou Hudson, Larry Costello, Hugh Evan and Radivoj Korac. Hudson passed away in 2014 at the age of 69 and collectors can pick up some nice signed items from him at a very reasonable price. The 2006-07 Press Pass Legends Auto Lou Hudson card can be found in the $15-$45 range and his 2012-13 SP Authentic Lou Hudson By The Letter Signatures card can be found in the $24-$50 range. I was also able to find a 2012 SP Authentic Home Court Original Autograph Lou Hudson Minnesota Gophers card.
Costello passed away in 2001 at age 70 and index cards and some multi-signed programs are the most common ways to add a Costello autograph to one’s collection. Les Wolff Sports had 3x5 signed index cards for $50 and PSA-slabbed versions were selling for $300-$439 on eBay. I also found a 1970 Bucks-Pistons program and a Bucks-Supersonics program signed by Costello and others. A 1967 8x10 of Costello was also selling for $70.
Hugh Evans passed away on July 8, 2022, only three months after learning about his induction. Surprisingly, I could not find any Evans autographs for sale.
Korac, who was the international committee inductee, passed away in 1969 at the age of 30. I suspect his is one of the more difficult Hall of Fame autographs to find. He played most of his career in Yugoslavia, where he was a hero and averaged 30.7 points per game in 169 games and scored 71 and 99 points in a two-game playoff series in 1964-65. Korac was an Olympic star who played in 1960 (Rome), 1964 (Tokyo) and 1968 (Mexico City). So maybe some Olympic memorabilia might be the best way to find a Korac-signed piece.