Thomas, Summitt, McAdoo headline Hall ceremonyUpdated: Wednesday October 24, 2001 4:12 PM
(CNNSI.com) -- Isiah Thomas was always closer to the smallest person on the basketball court than the tallest.
"Not that I wanted to be bigger, but I wanted them to be smaller," he said. "Because if we were all the same size, I would have killed them."
Fortunately, on this night, there was no need for the strong actions behind the words that became so commonplace in Detroit in the late '80s.
On this night, Thomas was among the giants being honored. Springfield, Mass. Thomas, who took over the Indiana Pacers in July, entered the Hall of Fame with high-scoring Bob McAdoo and Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt.
Other new members are Morgan Wootten, the most winning high school coach ever, of DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md.; former Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton; and the late Syracuse Nationals founder Danny Biasone, who introduced the 24-second clock.
Thomas overcame the rugged streets of his Chicago neighborhood, which he described as "worse than hardship," and his lack of physical stature to become one of the NBA's premier floor generals. His mental toughness was imposing as Bill Russell's physical presence and his distaste for losing which he says "just about always made him feel sick to his stomach" made him a winner at every level.
He led Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers to the 1981 NCAA Championship, then brought winning back to Detroit, as leader of the "Bad Boys." In 1989 and 1990, Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Vinnie Johnson, Joe Dumars and Bill Laimbeer and coach Chuck Daly won NBA titles their way.
"I can't say I was one of those guys who won every fight," he said. "But I was in the fight."
Thomas begins his rookie season as a head coach in the NBA and will try to get his Indiana Pacers to do as he said and has he did. It won't be easy.
Thomas' intensity was matched by his offensive production. A 12-time All-Star, he averaged 19.2 points and 9.3 assists and ranks fourth in NBA assists, and in 1996 was named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players.
Many in NBA circles were surprised that Bob McAdoo was not among the 50 greatest, but there is no questioning he was one of the most prolific scorers ever.
He did so by developing a jumpshot in which he covered his face with both arms. Then-Los Angeles Laker Jerry West described it as "the ugliest shot I've ever seen."
It wasn't pretty, but it was effective. The 6-9 McAdoo, currently an assistant coach with the Miami Heat, led the NBA in scoring three consecutive seasons (1973-1974 through 1975-76), averaging more than 30 points in each season. Over his career, which spanned seven teams, he averaged 22.1 points and 9.4 rebounds and helped the Lakers win NBA championships in 1982 and 1985.
"Bob McAdoo never met a shot he didn't like," said Jack Ramsay, who coached McAdoo with the Buffalo Braves.
Summitt is a living legend in college basketball ranks. In 26 seasons, she has led the Lady Vols to six national championships, including the 1997-98 team that went 39-0. Summitt holds a 728-150 record and coached the U.S. Womenıs Olympic team to a gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
But nothing matches the height of reaching the Hall of Fame: "I feel like a basketball angel in heaven," she said.