It is a wonderful privilege, as a lifelong San Antonio Spurs fan, to attend one Hall of Fame Enshrinement, and what an incredible time it was last year with Manu Ginobili closing out the evening emphatically. It is truly something bordering on sublime and nirvana to go to two consecutive iterations of this celebration for our Hall of Famers. And since this is likely the last Enshrinement for anyone associated with this modern era of San Antonio Spurs basketball (Warriors coach Steve Kerr needs to retire to even enter into this consideration), it was important to catch this with my sister with whom I’d been watching games going back into the early 80s either on our father’s laps or next to him. She showed off the below picture of a Decker Dog given away to us kids at a 1982 Spurs home game:
Attended this year's enshrinement with my sister who showed me a recent photo of her decker dog from a 1982 spurs home gane, which was the kiddos giveaway pic.twitter.com/uD5FfCgddb— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) August 13, 2023
After offering to bring my dad out for the event, he instead negotiated (i.e., demanded) a Wembanyama jersey for his Christmas gift instead!
Here are some observations from a night none of us are going to soon forget.
Legends Autograph Session
- In part due to the Friday autograph session with this year’s enshrinees selling out in less than 15 minutes, and perhaps in a gesture of goodwill to the increased attendance this weekend in comparison to years past, the League opened up a “Legends” Autograph session Saturday afternoon featuring a great collection of stars for any era.
- I had the pleasure of standing in line with a cavalcade of Spurs fans, including the now- infamous Spurs Lady, JC (highly touted designer of Spurs-themed customized kicks ), and Jennifer (a lifelong San Antonio resident and Spurs fan).
WITH THE FAMOUS SPURS LADYYYYY pic.twitter.com/zEnfU1yzv8— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) August 12, 2023
- The organizers disallowed photos with the legends, with the exception of former Rocket and current analyst Calvin Murphy, with whom I gleefully shared that my dad strongly disliked, along with Rockets guard Robert Reid during the 70s and 80s, while I shared that I styled my midrange game after him and former Hawk Charlie Criss.
Ex rocket Calvin Murphy and me - he was the only legend that agreed to a photo with me pic.twitter.com/ADDtx1RKG2— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) August 12, 2023
- Former Sonic Gary Payton surprisingly signed autographs with his left hand. I told him that I still watch his 90s games on YouTube on off-days to which he broadly smiled.
- Former Hornet and Heat center Alonzo Mourning told me he was 53, and I said “You don’t look a day over 40!” He shot back, “Man! You know I’d still be playing!”
- Former Spurs center Artis Gilmore was regal, as always, while Spencer Haywood filled in for an absent Bill Walton admirably.
- I thanked Sheryl Swoopes for all that she’s done for the sport, and she was genuinely kind in response.
- Coach Popovich was rumored possibly to show up to mingle with this amazing group of NBA legends, but he did not materialize to all of our sadness. The consolation prize was picking out matching Tony Parker HoF sweatshirts from the store.
Among the Throng at the Red Carpet Gala
- Boston superstar Jayson Tatum largely avoided the mass of people gathered in the center of the foyer, and instead, walked right by us fans:
Jayson Tatum! pic.twitter.com/phf581BF9c— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) August 13, 2023
- A possibly drunk gentleman next to me offered former Suns and Mavs two-way star Shawn Marion any drink of his choosing at the bar, and Mr. Marion selected.... a bottled water... very much to the person’s chagrin.
I have a funny story about Shawn Marion in my writeup pic.twitter.com/Ei8beubLEb— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) August 13, 2023
- While my sister briefly stepped away for no more than a minute to take a phone call, she ended up missing out on seeing former Spurs luminaries Artis Gilmore and Avery Johnson, along with former George Gervin-agitant Jamaal Wilkes. Life comes at us fast.
- A small boy adorned in Lakers gear showed up in front of me and spent several minutes pleading for Pau Gasol to say hello in vain. I respectfully barked at Pau (if it is indeed respectful to bark at anyone) for a few moments to get his attention, and once he gazed over, pointed downward to the worried fellow. One of Gasol’s handlers then came over to retrieve the boy’s Gasol hat to get it signed. The boy was so happy to get the autograph that he refused to let any other players’ signatures on it despite several of them offering to do so!
Pau saw a young boy next to me and eventually signed his cap pic.twitter.com/Y5W5vdbgO2— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) August 13, 2023
Enshrinement Hall Indelible Moments
- Since the evening tends to go much longer than the typical regular season game - without the extended timeouts and breaks in the action, I snuck out during one of the speeches for biological reasons. A much taller gentleman then sidled next to me and bellowed near my ear, “Why do they make these places so small!” to which I immediately quipped “they had to make it like those Candlestick Park troughs, right?!” Hall of Famer Spencer Haywood then proceeded to elbow me and let out a loud chuckle.
- In the process of the 1976 US Women’s Olympic team being feted, we noticed that one-by-one, the Spurs pantheon of players got up and shuffled towards the exits. Immediately I thought, “are they trying to exit the side door?” only to realize that it was Gregg Popovich that was next to be enshrined.
- Though it would have been great for Pop, Tony, or Becky to close out the evening, Dwayne Wade gave the viewing audience a wonderful entry into the Hall - together with his father, whom he lovingly called up to the stage. The videos don’t do this moment nearly the justice that the occasion deserved.
Following last year’s ceremony, my wife and I walked alongside Reggie Miller and his son. This time, my sister and I had a quiet walk out to our car - reflecting on four decades apiece of Spurs fandom. After a tear-filled evening and satisfied with the long trek out to Springfield, MA, there was little to stay other than promising to contact each other when the NBA schedule is released to see which Spurs road game we will go to next season.