Air Jordan has a new name: Hall of Famer.
Michael Jordan was elected to the class of 2009 on Monday, set for induction in Septemeber with his Dream Team teammates David Robinson and John Stockton. Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer are also part of a class announced in Detroit, site of the men's Final Four. Induction is Sept. 10-12 in Springfield, Mass., home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"I don't like being up here for the Hall of Fame because at that time your basketball career is completely over," Jordan said. "I was hoping this day would be 20 more years, or actually go in when I'm dead and gone."
Jordan's Hall of Fame selection was a slam dunk after he retired as perhaps the greatest player in history. And he gave much of the credit Monday to his college coach.
"There's no way you guys would have got a chance to see Michael Jordan play without Dean Smith," he said.
His soaring dunks, Nike commercials and "Air Jordan" nickname helped stamp him as one the most recognizable athletes around the world. He finished a 15-year career with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards with 32,292 points -- the third-highest total in league history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. His final career average of 30.12 goes down as the best, just ahead of Wilt Chamberlain's 30.07.
"Simply the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. He is the one player that each young person in this league should emulate and aspire to become. His work ethic, drive, skill level and competitive spirit were unmatched," Jordan's former Bulls teammate and now team GM, John Paxson said.
Jordan was a five-time NBA MVP, won six championships with the Bulls and another in college with North Carolina. The Tar Heels play Michigan State in the national championship game Monday night.
Jordan will root on the Tar Heels, but had no plans to give them a pep talk.
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was an assistant with Carolina on that 1982 championship team and was at Monday's induction, where Ty Lawson won the Bob Cousy award as the nation's top point guard.
Jordan retired twice during his career. He first came back to the Bulls in 1994 and won three more championships before retiring again in 1998, then had an ill-fated two-year stint with the Washington Wizards before calling it quits for good in 2003. He's now managing partner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
On Monday, he joked that when he saw Stockton and Robinson he was ready to put his shorts on again.
"I always want to be able to have you thinking I can always go back and play the game of basketball and put your shorts on," Jordan said. "Hall of Fame to me is like, OK, it's over and done with."
Jordan won two of his titles in the 1990s against Sloan, Stockton and the Jazz. Stockton spent his entire career with Utah and finished with 19,711 points, and holds NBA records 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals. He also holds NBA records for most assists in a season (1,164 in 1990-91) and highest assist average in a season (14.5 in 1989-90).
"Growing up I never thought about the Hall of Fame," Stockton said. "All I wanted was a chance to go to college."
Utah took Stockton in the first round of the 1984 draft, using the No. 16 pick on a relatively unknown player from Gonzaga who became one of the top point guards.
"I haven't given this much thought over the course of a lifetime," he said. "I'm not sure it quite strikes home until you're standing here."
Robinson, who earned the nickname "The Admiral" from his college career at Navy, joined Stockton and Jordan as members of the NBA's 50th anniversary team.
He had a stellar 14-year career with the San Antonio Spurs that included two NBA championships, an MVP season, a rookie of the year award, 10 All-Star selections, a scoring title and two Olympic gold medals. Unlike Jordan's inability to stay home after his final shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Robinson was content to retire after winning a second title with the Spurs in 2003.
"If I had to pick one night in my career, it would probably be walking off the court as a champion and knowing that was going to be my last memory of basketball," Robinson said.
Sloan, who did not attend the ceremony, is the longest tenured head coach in major league sports with a single franchise. Sloan is the only NBA coach to win more than 1,000 games with a single team and has the Jazz in seventh place in the Western Conference going into Monday night's games.
"I've been very lucky to have such great players, especially John, who is very deserving of this honor," Sloan said. "I've also been fortunate to be with such a tremendous organization for the past 20-plus years and am extremely grateful to the [Larry H.] Miller family for all of their support."
Sloan was missed on Monday by Stockton.
"He's not only a coach and a mentor, but a friend," Stockton said. "I enjoy him very much. The honor to share it with him, terrific."
Stringer has led three separate schools to the Final Four in her 38-year career and has an 825-280 mark spanning four decades. She trails only Pat Summitt and Jody Conradt on the career wins list, and guided Rutgers to its fifth straight regional semifinals trip this season.
"My knees are weak, and to think I would be standing here with these great, great, men of basketball," Stringer said. "It's not ever about me. It's about the players who all make it happen."
Stringer got her start in 1973 at Cheyney State, where Hall of Famer John Chaney was the men's coach, and took the school to the Final Four in 1982. She also took Iowa to the Final Four, the only women's coach to take three teams there.
"I am very happy and elated that she was selected to the Hall of Fame this year," Chaney said. "I would think not many, if any, Division II school has its former men's and women's coaches in the Hall of Fame."