SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — No matter where Grant Hill looked, he saw a familiar face.
“The thing that’s unique is that I feel like I have a connection, a relationship or was a fan of all of them in some capacity,” Hill said Thursday.
“Them” are the four others with Phoenix Suns connections that are representing the franchise in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame 2018 class.
It is the first time that five members from the same organization were elected into the same class.
Hill, former Suns guards Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Charlie Scott as well as former executive Rick Welts will be honored with eight others in a ceremony Friday. Kidd did not attend Thursday’s press conference because of illness but is expected to attend the official induction.
“This is a dream team for me,” Nash said. “To be part of it … it’s incredible to be standing in this position and it’s beyond my wildest dreams.”
Although the four players were not with the organization at the same time, they all had impactful careers and were key figures during some of the franchises’ greatest successes. Yet none won a ring in Phoenix as the Suns remain one of the winningest teams in the NBA to never win an NBA Championship.
Still, they are also one of 13 teams to have an all-time winning record in regular season games.
Nobody represents the Suns’ mixed success more than Nash, who played for the team from 1996-98 and returned from 2004 to 2012. During his second stint, the Suns advanced to the Western Conference Finals three of his first six years.
They have since hit hard times and the last time they were in the playoffs was in 2009 — almost a decade ago — with Hill and Nash on the court.
“Steve Nash is a very unique type of basketball player,” Scott said. “His style is not one that you can repeat.”
His role on the court during the team’s up-tempo offense era was memorable. But for Welts, Nash off the court was just as important, too.
“We were in Phoenix together,” Welts said. “(Nash) stood up for me during a really important time in my life. Grant was there, too, and had some really important words that meant the world to me.”
In 2011, Welts became the first prominent American sports executive to publicly acknowledge he was gay.
He is also credited with the creation of NBA All-Star Weekend and was the marketing wizard behind the 1992 Barcelona Olympics “Dream Team.”
For Scott, who left the ABA to join the NBA Suns in 1972, coming in a trade with the Celtics for Paul Silas, he thanked a key figure in the franchise, one who was a coach, general manager and owner.
“Jerry Colangelo is one of the most important people in my basketball career, and I’m just glad to be a Member of the Hall of Fame and that it started with the Phoenix Suns,” he said.
Scott added that “now you have five guys with connections to the Hall of Fame all coming in at one time. So I mean, like I said, I think it’s a good reflection on the Phoenix Suns. I think it’s a good reflection on the organizational structure that Jerry put together.”
One that will be in the spotlight Friday.
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