Utah Jazz fans had to be surprised to learn who Jerry Sloan and John Stockton picked to present them at their Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony this Friday night in Springfield, Mass.
Neither presenter has Utah ties, and both were considered rivals of the Jazz — one of which could fall into the friendly foe category (Charles Barkley), while the other (Isiah Thomas) was thought to be a bitter nemesis by many Beehive State basketball fans.
Following a tradition of selecting a current member of the Hall of Fame to do the presenting, Sloan asked Charles Barkley to do the induction introduction.
That might seem an odd choice, but Barkley had a fun rivalry with the Jazz during his career with the Sixers, Suns and Rockets and often speaks highly about the organization during his TNT analyst gig. Barkley, a 2006 Hall inductee, also played under Sloan during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, when the Utah coach was a Dream II assistant to Lenny Wilkens.
Sloan would not divulge his selection when asked by media members last week, saying that he had been asked to keep it under wraps. He did, however, act honored that his mystery person — who so happens to be the fun-loving and formidable Round Mound of Rebound — would accept his invitation.
"I did choose a guy for a lot of different reasons," Sloan said. "People ask why probably, I'm sure. I was really excited and shocked that he would accept, so it made me feel good."
Stockton's choice of Thomas, who made the Hall of Fame in 2000, has to be considered even more shocking.
Not only did the former Detroit Pistons great once have a famous run-in with Karl Malone's elbow, but it was widely believed (or at least rumored) that Thomas was frustrated that Stockton was included on the original Dream Team over him.
That widespread rumor might be put to rest with this selection, especially when combined with a glowing endorsement Thomas recently made about Stockton.
"He (Stockton), more so than anyone, has embodied the point guard position," Thomas recently told NBA.com, "(with) his ability to score the basketball when needed, ability to feed the ball when needed, and understand the emotions of the game and understand the emotions of his teammates.18 comments on this story
"I welcome him to this Hall of Fame," Thomas said, "because he deserves to be here."
Another surprise selection: Michael Jordan picked North Carolina State product David Thompson over his North Carolina coach, Dean Smith.
David Robinson will be presented by his first NBA coach, Larry Brown, and former San Antonio Spurs great George Gervin.
Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer, the fifth member of this Hall of Fame class, invited legendary Temple coach and longtime friend John Chaney to present her.
Contributing: Associated Press