NEW ORLEANS -- Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and former Kings guard Mitch Richmond are among eight finalists named Friday for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The class of 2014 will be announced April 7 during the NCAA Final Four and inducted in Springfield, Mass., on Aug. 8.
Johnson, a first-time nominee, played for the Phoenix Suns for all but the first 52 games of his 12-year career. He was one of the most versatile and explosive point guards in an illustrious era that included Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Gary Payton, Clyde Drexler and the late Dennis Johnson, along with Mark Price, Tim Hardaway, Derek Harper, Norm Nixon and Johnny Moore.
Known as KJ throughout his career, the three-time All-Star averaged 17.9 points on 49.3 percent shooting and 9.1 assists, routinely ranking among the league leaders in the latter category.
Richmond, a six-time All-Star, also was nominated a year ago. He emerged as a star with the Golden State Warriors’ wildly entertaining Run TMC teams of the early 1990s, became the second-best player in the Kings’ Sacramento era (behind Chris Webber) and was a member of the 1996 gold medal U.S. Olympic team.
Richmond, a consultant in the Kings’ front office, was one of the few nominees present for Friday’s announcement. He sat next to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver during the news conference, nervously chewing gum.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said, noting that his former Warriors teammate, Hardaway, also was nominated. “Hopefully this time I get in.”
Sarunas Marciulionis, another of Richmond’s former teammates at Golden State, was named to the Hall of Fame as one of five Direct Elects – luminaries chosen from other categories. The Lithuanian was this year’s selection of the International Committee. (Word is, Vlade Divac will get in next year.)
Marciulionis was the first player to sign with an NBA team following the Cold War and was a member of the hugely significant influx of international stars in 1989 – a group that consisted of Divac, the late Drazen Petrovic, Alexander Volkov and Zarko Paspalj.
Marciulionis’ influence in the international game eclipsed his success in the NBA. Along with center Arvydas Sabonis, Marciulionis led the Soviet Union to the 1988 Olympic gold medal and a historic semifinal upset of the United States. After Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union in 1990, the powerful, athletic 6-foot-5 guard led his country to bronze medals in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics and oversaw the financing of the national team program. Those tie-dyed T-shirts are classics.
Stern is Hall-bound – In something of a surprise only because it happened so quickly, former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who retired Feb. 1 after 30 years, was among the Direct Elects (Contributor category).
When asked about his mentor, Silver choked up. “David is a modest guy,” he said, “and he has always told me he doesn’t like to reflect back on his life or his career. But this will certainly force him to.”
Fox on Cousins
– One-time Kings agitator Rick Fox, who earns a living these days as an actor and NBA analyst, offered a very favorable assessment of center DeMarcus Cousins.
“I thought it would be two more years before we saw this type of improvement,” said the former Lakers forward. “He’s still got a ways to go, but I watched him again closely the other day, and I was so impressed.
“I like that he’s starting to understand that being a cornerstone means more than being compensated with a big salary, and I really like his skills. Now it’s a matter of the Kings surrounding him with talent, to go with another piece to go with DeMarcus and Rudy Gay.”
Et cetera – While rookie Ben McLemore is the only King participating in this weekend’s events (the Slam Dunk contest on Saturday night), principal owner Vivek Ranadive and minority partner Dr. Paul Jacobs were panelists at the annual tech summit. A handful of other team executives, including president Chris Granger, and marketing staffers are here.
• Richmond was a member of the USA squad that lost to the Russians in ’88. “It was men against boys,” Richmond recalled with a rueful laugh.
• The other Hall of Fame finalists are Alonzo Mourning and Spencer Haywood, and coaches Nolan Richardson, Gary Williams and Eddie Sutton.