Magic Johnson leads list of nominees for Basketball Hall of Fame

Wednesday, April 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ Earvin ``Magic'' Johnson, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships, was among 14 players and coaches and one team nominated Wednesday for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Johnson, vice president of the Lakers, was nominated in his first year of eligibility. There are so few doubts about the outcome of the vote that, in a break with tradition, the Hall of Fame is announcing its inductees in June in Los Angeles, where Johnson spent his entire 13-year pro career.

In his rookie season with the Lakers, Johnson seized control of Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Starting at center for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and playing all five positions during the game, Johnson had 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, leading the Lakers to the first of five NBA titles during the decade.

At 21, Johnson became the first rookie to be named MVP of the Finals.

The Lakers went on to win the NBA title 1982, 85, 87, and 88. Johnson was a three-time league MVP (1987, 89, 90), and MVP of the Finals in 1990 and '92.

In 1979, Johnson led Michigan State to the NCAA championship game over Indiana State and Larry Bird in the first of their legendary duels. They squared off three more times in the NBA Finals in a rivalry that ignited fan interest and transformed pro basketball during the 1980s.

Johnson left the NBA after the 1990-91 season following a stunning announcement that he had HIV. He returned to basketball to help the United States win Olympic gold in 1992 and returned to the NBA in the 1994-95 season, surpassing the 10,000 career-assist plateau.

Johnson hoped to enter the Hall of Fame with Bird, who was inducted in 1998. He even asked the Hall to waive its rule requiring players be retired five years before induction.

Also nominated as players were Portland Trail Blazers coach and former 76ers guard Maurice Cheeks, scoring star Adrian Dantley, defensive ace Bobby Jones, seven-time All-Star Chet Walker, who played with the Chicago Bulls and 76ers, and James Worthy, one of the game's greatest fastbreak finishers.

Nominees need 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for induction.

Coaches nominated included Larry Brown, who won an NCAA championship at Kansas and last season led Philadelphia to the NBA Finals, Lefty Driesell, the fourth-winningest coach in NCAA Division I history with 782 victories in his 40-year coaching career, Lute Olson, who led Arizon to the 1997 NCAA championship and has coached 29 years at Long Beach City College, Long Beach State, Iowa and Arizona, Bill Sharman and Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton.

Phoenix Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo, college and professional coach Tex Winter, and wheelchair basketball pioneer Junius Kellogg were nominated as contributors, along with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Earl Lloyd, the first black player in the NBA, was nominated by the Veterans Committee, along with college coach Forrest Anderson, and contributor Grady Lewis.

Cathy Rush, whose three national championships at Immaculata College in the 1970s brought national attention and scholarship money to women's college basketball; North Carolina State coach Kay Yow, Harley Redin of Wayland Baptist were proposed by the Women's Committee, while players Dino Meneghin and Drazen Petrovic and coach Pedro Ferrandiz were nominated by the International Committee.