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Hall Could Be Filled With Lakers

Pro basketball: Worthy, Sharman, Winter, Dantley among those eligible to be inducted with Johnson.

June 05, 2002|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The one line missing from Magic Johnson's resume will be added today when the former Laker great is introduced during a luncheon at the Biltmore Hotel as one of the newest members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Johnson, whose brilliant playmaking put the show in Showtime and carried the Lakers to five NBA championships in the 1980s, officially is one of 24 finalists from which the hall's Class of 2002 will be announced during the noon event.

But his place in the hall, of course, has been assured for years, ever since his career was cut short after he was diagnosed with HIV in 1991.

Or, as one hall official put it Tuesday, "If he doesn't make it, that's a major story."

This is the first time that the Hall of Fame, located in Springfield, Mass., has announced its class on the West Coast.

Among the other finalists are six with Southland ties: James Worthy, who played with Johnson on three Laker championship teams; Bill Sharman, who coached the L.A. Lakers to their first NBA title in 1972; Tex Winter, a former Long Beach State coach, USC assistant and a current assistant to Laker Coach Phil Jackson; Larry Brown, a former UCLA and Clipper coach; Arizona Coach Lute Olson, a former Long Beach State coach; and Adrian Dantley, who played for the Lakers from 1977 to 1979.

(Winter said Tuesday that he had not made the hall).

Sharman, inducted as a player in 1976, would join John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens as the only people enshrined as player and coach.

Players must be retired for five years before they're eligible for enshrinement. Coaches are eligible after coaching for at least 25 years.

Johnson, the No. 1 pick in the 1979 NBA draft, arrived in Los Angeles after helping Michigan State win the NCAA championship in an epic battle against Larry Bird and Indiana State, a rivalry that would continue throughout the '80s with the Lakers and Boston Celtics. Bird was elected to the hall in 1998.

A 12-time NBA All-Star and three-time most valuable player, Johnson helped the Lakers to the championship in his rookie season, playing every position and scoring 42 points in the Game 6 clincher against the Philadelphia 76ers when teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was sidelined because of an injury.

The Lakers also won titles in 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988.

"To go along with other great players, it's the greatest feeling to know you are one of them, especially a kid from Lansing, Mich.," Johnson said of his impending enshrinement.

"It's truly a dream come true....

"Even when I'm dead and gone, my bust will still be there and people will say, 'Who was that skinny guy?'"

Enshrinement ceremonies for this year's class of inductees will be held Sept. 27 in Springfield, one day before the hall's new $103-million complex opens.

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Staff Writer Steve Springer contributed to this report.

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