I couldn't be more honored, excited and overjoyed to be a part of the Hall of Fame. Words cannot really express how I truly feel right now. I don't think it's really hit me quite yet, and it's hard to even tell you how I feel to tell you the truth.
This honor means everything to me. Since I got the news last week, I've been looking back at my career, and it makes you reminisce about it all - the accomplishments and even the downfalls that made me pick myself up, dust myself off and get back out there. It makes you look at the good and bad times...and you realize, it was all worth it.
This has taken me back to where it all started - back to high school - when I picked up a basketball for the first time in 10th grade. As a young kid, I played football. That was my first love. But when I picked up a basketball, I fell in love with it instantly. I wanted to play it every day. When I fell in love with the game, the only guy I knew or heard about back in those days was Dr. J. He was just so good, on and off the court, and that's who I wanted to follow. That was my idol. I had a chance to really sit down and talk to him about two years ago. We exchanged numbers, and I was just so proud to have his number in my phone!
The game took me through high school and then to college. And then when I realized it could take me to the NBA, wow, that was unbelievable. I didn't know where my NBA path would take me, but to get to this point, the Hall of Fame, it's the greatest achievement you could ever get. A Championship ring, All-Stars, Rookie of the Year, Olympic medals...and now this. It's really a beautiful thing. I enjoyed every step and every place the game of basketball has taken me. You turn around and it's been 30 years. It went so fast. I feel like a young guy at 48, and I'm in the Hall of Fame. It's so fascinating and amazing. This is truly the ultimate.
This honor represents everyone who has touched my life so far. The coaches from high school, the guys I played with, everyone who was a part of my growth to this point...that's who I'm thinking about right now. I'm getting calls from high school teammates, coaches, friends I played with in the NBA. It's an amazing feeling and it shows how many people have touched my life throughout my career.
The day I found out about the Hall of Fame I was in Chicago for the McDonald's All American Game. I knew I was supposed to be getting a call about it that day, so I kept looking at my phone. For some reason, nobody was calling me - not even my friends - I couldn't get my phone to ring if I tried! I was in the middle of a scout meeting, my phone buzzed, and I looked down and it said "Hall of Fame." I was so nervous when I saw that, and I went outside to take the call. The guy on the other end of the phone asked me how I was doing and when I told him I was great, he said, "'I hope you are going to be even better because you are a member of the Hall of Fame."'
Man, I had to sit down for a second. I was so excited. But I had to go back in to the meeting and not say anything about it. I definitely had a big smile on my face, though! Then I called my wife, my Mom and my Dad. They were thrilled! I had to keep reminding my Mom (who's like the TMZ of Ft. Lauderdale) that she couldn't tell anyone!
I arrived in Dallas Thursday morning and laid low most of the weekend because I couldn't tell anyone. People were coming up to me and saying congrats, and I acted like I didn't know what they were talking about! Some reporters were calling. I couldn't answer anyone's calls. My phone has been ringing off the hook.
People don't know this, but one of my best friends is Michael Irvin. We had a chance to get together the other night and we reminisced and talked a lot. It's amazing where we came from. People don't know that Michael was was a phenomenal basketball player. We (with another one of our friends) used to go to any neighborhood and play their three best players. We played for soda, for money, for anything, and we'd win! I went on to basketball, and he went on to football, but we remained great friends. It's unbelievable - two guys from the same area are Hall of Famers and best friends. Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith, also both Hall of Famers from Florida, were there too the other night. We all reminisced together.
This is truly the ultimate basketball accomplishment, and I will represent the Hall of Fame, and continue to respect the game, as best as I can. I am honored and so happy to be a part of this wonderful organization.
I'm feeling pretty excited about watching these Sweet 16 games! The sports bars are packed and people who don't even watch basketball are watching the Cinderella teams and glued to the TV.
Anytime you can turn on the TV or go to a game to watch young kids rise to the occasion or see teams play so well, it's exciting. This is the time when coaches are trying to find extra motivation to get their teams hyped and focus more. Basketball has been a part of my life for so long, and I love it.
I have one story that comes to mind as we head into the Sweet 16. First, let me explain the backstory. It was my senior year at Kansas State, and we lost pretty badly early in the season to Purdue. They were a good team (had guys like Troy Lewis, Todd Mitchell, a big fella who I can't remember at the moment), and they beat us by something like 17 points at their house. They were the favorite to win it all that year, and they kicked us pretty bad.
When we came back from winter break, Coach came back with a whole new game plan. He changed up everything, especially how we were running our offense, and we started playing better. We made it to the NCAA Tournament.
I can't remember who we played or who we beat, but we got to the Sweet 16. In order to make it to the Elite 8, guess who we would have to beat? Purdue. We were up against the team that really beat us early in the season and they were very overconfident about playing us in the tournament. Todd Mitchell (who's a good friend now) and a bunch of those guys were talking so much smack. But we took that as motivation to go out and play. We were so eager to show them we were a different team and were ready to go out and play! But what happened next really set us off.
The night before the game our team was eating dinner at a steakhouse in Detroit. The restaurant had a schedule showing that the Purdue team would be having dinner there that next weekend...days after our game!! They were SO confident that they were winning that they already had reservations for days later! Our whole team was so pissed. And I was SO geared up to show them that not one of them could stop me.
Well, we went out that next day and beat them. I think we were leading the whole game, but it was an exciting game, and we ended up winning by about 6 points or something like that.
Our team performance, the build up, having 12 or 13 guys and coaches really fired up...it was probably the best team effort of any game during my college career!
And now I'm headed to Anaheim to see the Arizona - San Diego State game. Looking forward to see who comes out on top!
I have to start by talking about Kansas State University, a team that is dear to my heart. I think they are a good, young team that's playing very well and having a good season. And freshman Marcus Foster is playing fantastic basketball.
You can tell this is a very well coached team, with a coaching staff that is getting the best out of their players. You can tell they are well coached by how disciplined they are and how well they play together as a team. They are not an overpowering, scoring team, but they play hard and do it the right way.
Kansas State definitely has their hands full with Kentucky, but they will come out fighting! They are known for their defense and playing team ball, and even though they are going up against a good, talented team, I think Kansas State is gonna get 'em!
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It's all about that first game. They have a tall task going against a young Kentucky team, but you gotta get that first win to start making noise. Then you have to focus on one game at a time and don't get too far ahead. I would tell the players to relax, stay consistent, pay attention to the details. It's the little things that can beat you. Focus on rebounding and turnovers. Take one game at a time and enjoy the moment!
I'm excited to see how this Tournament unfolds. It's always exciting to see a young team emerge...a team that is an underdog or a team that's never talked about do something big. Usually it's the teams that play well together and the teams that peak at the right time that can get far. And the players that step up get put on the radar for years to come.
There's no question I'll be watching my team play this Friday. I can't pinpoint where I'll be watching the game, but I'll be watching!