SPRINGFIELD — For all basketball players collegiate, pro, and otherwise, of all places, Springfield, is their desired destination. Reason? That is the locale for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sometimes the road to the Hall of Fame is a short trip, especially for those players fortunate enough to be elected on the first ballot like 2009’s inductees of Jordan, Robinson, and Stockton. For many others, that road is a long and winding one as years go by and the call from Springfield goes without being dialed.
This year’s induction class includes a headline-grabbers like Dennis Rodman, basketball legends of the Big Apple, innovative coaches, and unsung heroes. Former Celtic Tom ‘Satch’ Sanders certainly fits into the final category.
The Celtics forward will be going into the Hall of Fame as a contributor, which is a distinction befitting a player who amassed eight championship rings playing for legends of the sport and Hall of Famers in their own right, Red Auerbach and Bill Russell and amongst a litany of Hall of Famers including Russell, Bill Sharman, Frank Ramsey, Sam Jones, KC Jones, John Havlicek, and Sanders’ presenter for Friday’s enshrinement Tommy Heinsohn.
Despite playing for Auerbach on a half-dozen NBA Championship squads, the legendary coach was not considered to be a fan of Satch’s game on the offensive end of the floor.
‘Red (Auerbach) was not sold on the fact that I had a solid offensive game,’ Sanders told reporters at Thursday’s Hall of Fame Enshrinement press conferences.
Sanders was able to get a sizeable amount out of that game in a 13-year-career where he finished with 9.6 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, and 1.1 assists per game. At first glance, those numbers are a meager contribution, but those eight championships that he was a part of show the richest portrait of a player who personified the distinction of a, ‘contributor.’
The contribution that Sanders brought to the parquet floor night in and night out was not lost on the team that drafted him eighth overall in 1960, as the team retired his number ‘16’ in 1973, a year after his playing career came to a close.
Thursday’s press conferences were held in the de facto court of basketball royalty. That hardwood hierarchy included many former teammates and opponents.
That group of people and the magnitude possessed by them within the sport of basketball was not lost on Sanders as he spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon.
“I know a heck of a lot of these people here and it makes me nervous. Real nervous,’ he said of those in attendance on Thursday.
On Friday night, Sanders will join an exclusive hardwood fraternity, the very same one that brought on Thursday afternoon’s nerves.
Sometimes the road to enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is a long one like the one travelled by Tom ‘Satch’ Sanders. His enshrinement shows that no matter how initially meager a contribution on the road to championship basketball may first look, the impact of that contribution is to be recognized.