On Saturday night, Becky Hammon, Gary Blair and the 1976 US Women’s Olympic Team were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Here are highlights from the ceremony:
“Just be you. Just be you. Just be you.”
Those were the words that Becky Hammon consistently heard from fellow Class of 2023 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Gregg Popovich during her time as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs.
While Popovich repeated the phrase to pour courage and confidence into Hammon after he made her the first woman to serve as a NBA assistant coach in 2014, Hammon has reached basketball’s heights because she always has just been her.
As Hammon said during her speech, “I’m not going to give you the traditional basketball speech because, quite frankly, there’s nothing traditional about me.”
She emphasized how “heart, grit, will and a strong mind” took her from the Black Hills of South Dakota to the spotlight of Madison Square Garden to the court and sideline in San Antonio to a record-breaking opportunity in Las Vegas to, on Saturday night, the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Hammon also passed along a number of the simple mantras that have motivated her through her lifetime journey in the sport she long knew she loved (just like she knew she loved Jesus). She recalled a poster on her bedroom wall, alongside a poster of Michael Jordan, that read, “Know your ABCs to accomplish your dreams.” She noted her dad’s advice to her—“Rule the ground not the air”—even though she idolized the soaring Jordan. She also shared her mission of “Mak[ing] shots and win[ning] championships,” the goal understood by her sons, Cayden and Sam.
Hammon’s speech provided insight into what makes her who she is, and why she has, and will continue to, influence what women have done, and will do, in this sport.
For more about Hammon’s untraditional Hall-of-Fame career, check out:
- No one was out of the reach of Becky Hammon on the way to the Hall of Fame
- Becky Hammon’s Hall of Fame journey: A continued pursuit of excellence
Soon after Gary Blair announced that the 2021-22 women’s college basketball would be his last, Zack Ward aptly wrote, “Gary Blair won a national championship for Texas A&M at a high point of UConn’s dominance of the sport. It was no easy task.”
In 2011, Blair led the Aggies to the national championship, the high point of his 37-year career coaching women’s college basketball. But as Blair asserted during his Hall of Fame induction speech, “I climbed to the top of the mountain in women’s basketball but success is not a destination. It is an ever evolving journey.”
He emphasized that journey began well before he arrived as head coach at Texas A&M in 2003 or at Arkansas in 1993 or even at Stephen F. Austin in 1985. It began before he earned his first of 852 NCAA victories.
Blair’s coaching journey began 50 years ago South Oak Cliff High School outside of Dallas, Texas. As Blair told it on Saturday night, “I am convinced that God led three young women to knock on the door of my office and ask me if I would be interested in coaching girls basketball at South Oak Cliff High School. Here I am 50 years later at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.”
Blair also used his Hall of Fame speech to insist, “We need more recognition of women in the Hall of Fame.” Preach!
To learn more about that fateful beginning of Blair’s basketball journey, be sure to read:
1976 Olympic Team (Women’s Veterans Committee)
Forty seven years ago, in the summer of 1976, women’s basketball debuted at the Olympic Games.
In Montreal, the 12 women who were members of the US national team won silver, an achievement that now is memorialized as foundational to the growth of the sport in the United States, as well as to the future success of the United States on the international stage.
Coached by Billie Moore, those 12 pioneering women were: Cindy Brogdan, Nancy Dunkle, Lusia Harris, Pat Head (Summitt), Nancy Lieberman, Charlotte Lewis, Gail Marquis, Ann Meyers (Drysdale), Mary Anne O’Connor, Patricia Roberts, Susan Rojcewicz and Juliene Brazinski (Simpson).
As Simpson said on Saturday night, “We played for future generations that might see themselves in one of us.”
To get to know more about these women and their influence, take a look at:
- The 1976 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team Forever Changed Sports
- Historic 1976 U.S. Olympic team shaped post-Title IX women’s basketball landscape
- An Oral History Of The First U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team
- Lusia Harris Scored The First Olympic Basket In 1976. The Sport Would Never Be The Same.
- U.S. Women Trace Olympic Basketball Success to 1976
A final congratulations to Holly Rowe, the 2023 winner of Curt Gowdy Award for Electronic Media.
The lengths Rowe has gone to elevate and amplify the women’s game is unmatched. And her insistence on emphasizing the importance of women’s basketball and the integrity of women’s basketball players is appreciated.