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Golden age of Sacramento basketball enshrined in Hall of Fame

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Webber HOF speech

The golden age of Sacramento basketball finally got its due Saturday night. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined Kings superstar Chris Webber, Kings coaching legend Rick Adelman and Monarchs MVP Yolanda Griffith into the one of the most elusive clubs in the world. 

Webber didn’t want to get off the plane when he was traded to the Kings for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe during the summer of 1998. After some tough conversations, he joined a Kings squad that had made the playoffs just twice in their first 13 seasons in Sacramento, but he was a lightning rod for change in the Capital city.

More than two decades later, Webber gained a unique perspective about faith and the impact a community can have on an NBA player.

“I just want to talk a little bit about God’s grace, I want to talk about the fact that God has to lead you,” Webber said during his enshrinement speech on Saturday night. “You’re not always supposed to know where you're going or how good it’s going to be when you come out on the other side. It’s just about trusting him, trusting God, trusting the process. Sacramento, my faith will forever be strong, because God gave me you.”

In his six-plus seasons in a Kings uniform, Webber made four NBA All-Star appearances and led his squad all the way to the Western Conference Finals in 2002. 

Webber’s run in Sacramento was cut short by a devastating knee injury during the 2003 playoffs, but he still managed to post 23.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in 377 games in a Kings uniform. 

 

Most of his teammates from the golden age of Kings basketball made their way to Springfield, Mass. to celebrate his enshrinement, including Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Bobby Jackson, Doug Christie and Jason Williams.

The crew was not at the Hall of Fame just to cheer on Webber. Divac also acted as one of the presenters for their head coach in Adelman and the entire group knew Griffith well from their time together in Sacramento.

Adelman arrived on the scene just months after Webber during the lockout period leading up to the 1998-99 season. If Webber was the floor general and Geoff Petrie was the architect of the team, Adelman was the commander in chief. 

Like Webber, Adelman had found success before coming to the Kings, but his time in Sacramento might have been what defined his career. In his eight seasons as the head coach of the Kings, Adelman posted a 395-229 (.633) record and led the team to eight of their 10 playoff appearances in their 36 years in Sacramento.

“That team, people loved to watch play,” Adelman said of his squad in Sacramento. “They just took off, not only in Sacramento, but across the country. They got on the front of Sports Illustrated and they were just the talk of the league. We had great players, with great skills, a very intelligent team.”

In the 13 seasons of Sacramento Kings basketball before Adelman’s arrival, the franchise posted a 386-680 (.362) record. Since Adelman’s departure following the 2005-06 season, the Kings have missed the playoffs for 15 consecutive seasons and posted a 437-757 (.366). 

Adelman spent time coaching in Portland, Golden State, Houston and Minnesota over his 23-year career as an NBA head coach. He finished his career with a 1042-749 (.582) record and his win total ranks ninth all-time. 

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While Webber and Adelman were so close to delivering an NBA Championship to Sacramento, Griffith and her Monarchs teammates were busy dominating the WNBA.

The 6-foot-4 Griffith played nine of her 11 WNBA seasons in Sacramento. During that stretch, she made seven All-Star teams, was named to the All-NBA team five times and won both the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and league MVP award during the 1999 season.

“To Sacramento, how do you say thank you to the city that completely embraced you?,” Griffith said. “To the best fans in the WNBA, you gave us a purpose, a will to always strive to be the best on the court and without you, there were no Monarchs.”

Griffith also accomplished something her Kings counterparts never did -- she won a ring. The Monarchs won the WNBA Championship during the 2005 season and made the postseason in eight seasons during Griffith’s time with the team. Griffith was named the Final MVP and nearly led the team to back-to-back championships the next season.

In nine years in a Monarchs uniform, Griffith averaged 14.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. She won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, was named to the WNBA’s All-Decade team in 2006 and is considered one of the greats of the women’s game.

 

All three Sacramento legends were long overdue for induction. Webber retired during the 2007-08 season and became eligible for induction in 2013. Griffith retired the next year and has been waiting for the call since 2014. Adelman coached until the 2013-14 season before hanging up his whistle and has been eligible since 2019.

In addition to these three Sacramento legends, Bill Russell, who coached the Kings during the 1987-88 season was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his coaching career. Toni Kukoc (International), Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace, Jay Wright, Lauren Jackson (Women’s Committee), Val Ackerman (Contributor), Howard Garfinkel (Contributor), Cotton Fitzsimmons (Contributor), Bob Dandridge (Veterans Committee), Pearl Moore (Women’s Veteran Committee) and Clarence Fats Jenkins (Early African American Pioneers) were all inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame Class of 2021 as well.