SPRINGFIELD, Mass. >> Tracy McGrady says his wife, Clerenda, has been trying to get him to say that he deserves to be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The seven-time NBA All-Star and two-time league scoring champion couldn’t bring himself to do that, until tonight.
He went to the podium during his induction pumping his fists in the air as the crowd chanted “T-Mac,” then celebrated his 15 years in the league.
“On this day, I can finally say, ‘Yes I deserve to be here,’” said McGrady, who played for seven teams, starring with Toronto, Orlando and Houston. “I am truly humbled. I’m grateful and proud to be in the class of 2017.”
McGrady was among 11 basketball greats enshrined tonight.
The class also includes former ABA and NBA star George McGinnis, former UConn and WNBA star Rebecca Lobo, Kansas men’s coach Bill Self, Notre Dame women’s coach Muffet McGraw, former Texas high school coach Robert Hughes, former Harlem Globetrotters player and now owner Mannie Jackson, NCAA administrator Tom Jernstedt and former European star Nick Galis.
Former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, and former Globetrotter and New York Rens player Zack Clayton were honored posthumously.
McGrady had earlier told reporters his celebration was being tempered by the impact of Hurricane Harvey on his family and neighbors in Texas.
His estate in Sugar Land, Texas, suffered only minor damage from the storm, allowing him and his wife to take in the families of five relatives and friends for three days after mandatory evacuations. He also put on a Labor Day feast at a church in the Houston area for about 800 victims of the storm.
“My sister was at the house, and I was trying to take her home and driving to her house. Just seeing cars under water and you don’t know if people are in there — it’s real,” he told reporters. “I’m being as vocal and proactive as I can.”
Other inductees were vocal about other issues tonight.
Jackson talked about being born in a box car in Missouri and rising to become a player and later a successful business executive and owner of the Globetrotters. His was the most political speech of the night, calling for unity in a divided nation, saying he does not believe the country can endure if it does not cast indifference, hatred and bigotry aside.
“If basketball can be a showcase for non-discrimination, for integration, for performance-based emotions, why can’t we do that over in every part of our society?” he asked.
Lobo and McGraw celebrated the growth of women’s basketball. McGraw became just the sixth women’s coach to be enshrined.
“I’m grateful for Title IX and the opportunities that it’s given to women like me, who dreamed of a future where we could do the same job as a man, where playing a game could lead to a 40-year career,” she said.
Lobo told a story about when her oldest daughter, Siobhan, was 5 years old and saw her father watching a UConn men’s game. She said to him, “I didn’t know boys play basketball too.”
Self, 54, told the Associated Press he feels a little uncomfortable being enshrined in the middle of his career, which includes nine 30-win seasons and an NCAA championship in 2008
“I hope it doesn’t mean that I’m on my last leg yet,” he said. “I think this will be motivation to try and validate it, always. I’ll work harder now that ever to validate being thought of with these other fraternity members.”
Self spent part of his speech listing the Kansas basketball coaching greats in the Hall of Fame.
“James Naismith, Phog Allen, Larry Brown, Roy Williams and me; what is wrong with that picture?” he joked.
Jernstedt, credited with overseeing the growth of the Division I men’s tournament and the creation of the women’s tournament, acknowledged to reporters that his class doesn’t include a superstar name like Michael Jordan or Shaquille O’Neal, but said he is impressed with what this class has meant to the sport.
“I didn’t know three of four of these people very well at all before, but the contributions they’ve made are so impressive,” he said. “Hopefully now, more people will understand that and reach out and learn more about them.”