SPRINGFIELD, August 14 – The Michael Jordan-sparked 1992 US Olympic gold medal "Dream Team" led an iconic group of inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame at ceremonies on Friday at the sport honor shrine.Dream Team players Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone were also inducted for their individual achievements, making 10 of 12 Dream Team players in the Hall as individuals as well as on the historic squad from the Barcelona Olympics.
The US squad brought NBA talent into the Olympics for the first time, helping to spark the global growth of the sport and lead the NBA to attract the sport’s greatest stars from around the world over the past 18 years.
"To go in as a player and as a team, it’s just awesome," Malone said.
Pippen praised Jordan, his Olympic and Chicago Bulls teammate. Alongside Jordan, Pippen was a part of six NBA championship squads with the Bulls in the 1990s. Pippen called Jordan "the best teammate" and said he would forever cherish their relationship, which began when he joined the Bulls in 1987.
"MJ, you have touched so many people’s lives, but none quite like mine," Pippen said. "Who knew that No. 23 (Jordan) would be here 23 years later presenting me to the Basketball Hall of Fame?"
Malone, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player who ranks second on the all-time league scoring list, thanks Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller and his mother, whom he said had died exactly seven years ago.
"I hope I did it the way my peers did it before me," Malone said. "I didn’t do anything but try to play hard."
Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird, nagged by back pain in 1992, recalled having to be coaxed onto the Dream Team by Magic Johnson, his long-time rival with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Pretty good way to go out, winning the gold medal," Bird said.
The Dream Team had an unbeaten run to Barcelona gold averaging 117.3 points a game and winning by an average of 43.8 points a contest.
"That was probably one thing that we never got credit for," said Dream Team standout Charles Barkley. "It’s easy to sit there and say you’re going to win every game by 40 or 50 points, but we went out and actually did it.
"We knew we were going to win the games, but to play at such a high level the entire time was incredible."
Also honored was the 1960 US Olympic gold medal championship team, one that included Laker legend Jerry West and superstar Oscar Robertson. The team went 8-0 in Rome and won by an average of 42.4 points a game.
"I played on, I think, the greatest amateur team that ever played," West said. "Not a day goes by that I don’t think about those days. The greatest thrill of my life was to win a gold medal, not to win an NBA championship."
Also inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame were Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss; Cynthia Cooper, the first Women’s NBA player to be enshrined; and US high school coach Bob Hurley.
Posthumous enshrinees were Brazil’s Maciel Pereira and former NBA stars Gus Johnson and Dennis Johnson.