The New York City Basketball Hall of Fame once again officially inducted deserving legends and heroes of the game to its distinguished, prestigious organization.
The annual induction dinner and ceremony, the 28th, held Tuesday evening, for the first time at the Bryant Park Grill in the Times Square area of Midtown Manhattan, was hosted by another New York City legend, recently retired ESPN sports talk personality Bill Daughtry, setting the tone for the evening of honors.
First to be honored, opening the evening’s presentations after the Ray Charles recording of “America the Beautiful,” the invocation by the Rev. Charles P. Kenney, parochial vicar of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Brooklyn, and the official welcome by Tom “Satch” Sanders, trustee of the Hall of Fame, was “Jumping” Jackie Jackson, a Boys High (Brooklyn) alum, considered one of the greatest dunkers of all time. Jackson, known for being the first player to leap high enough to take a quarter off the top of a regulation height backboard, was drafted into the NBA in 1962 by Philadelphia, and then the Warriors, but he chose instead to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, where he spent 15 years.
Lamar Odom brought the celebrity. Without his Hollywood persona, his entourage of Kardashians or any of his championship NBA rings, Odom, 38, 6-foot-10, looking as if he can still play, the high school and street ball legend who played with Christ the King High School (Queens) and the Riverside Church basketball program in Harlem, in addition to his pro accomplishments, wowed the audience of city legends there in attendance, accompanied by their many associates, friends and family. In his prepared speech, Odom, named after his father, paid tribute to his mother and grandmother, Cathy and Mildred Mercer, who were so instrumental in his life.
“I’m here today before you because of the two strongest, most beautiful women I’ve ever known in my life.” Odom said. “I exist because of them.”
Odom also noted words of wisdom passed on to him by his grandmother: “What you do in the dark, comes out in light. Those words will hold true today, because everything I’ve done in darkness, came out in light. Sometimes it came out on TMZ.”
The TMZ line woke the stoic crowd, focused on Odom’s every word, to a banquet hall of laughter and applause. Humbly, Odom admitted his struggles with finding and understanding himself and understanding who he is. In closing, he said, “I am New York. If I stumble, if I fall, please pick me up. I would do the same for you. I walked a long while to be here. God love you God bless.”
“Now that’s how you do it,” said Daughtry.