Walter Davis, Doug Collins, Michele Timms highlight Arizona ties to 2024 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame class

Bo Ryan and Doug Collins share a fist pump as they recall their coaching days, celebrating their achievements together. (Photo by Bennett Silvyn/Cronkite News)

Hillary Laird, daughter of Walter Davis, discusses what her father’s induction into the basketball Hall of Fame in Phoenix means to her family, particularly considering his 11 seasons with the Phoenix Suns. (Photo by Bennett Silvyn/Cronkite News)

GLENDALE – The Men’s Final Four has the opportunity to change the trajectory of young players’ lives. It can mark an early chapter in a long and fulfilling career in the game of basketball.

While the journey of players from UConn, North Carolina State, Alabama and Purdue were just beginning at State Farm Stadium Saturday, across the street the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame honored the final chapter of some of the greatest basketball players’ careers with the announcement of this year’s inductees, several with Arizona ties.

Among those honored were former Suns players Walter Davis and Vince Carter; Doug Collins, who was an Arizona State assistant coach from 1982-84; and Michele Timms, who played for the Phoenix Mercury from 1997-2001. Others inducted into the Hall of Fame were Chauncey Billups, Michael Cooper, Seimone Augustus, Charles Smith, Dick Barnett, Harley Redin, Herb Simon, Bo Ryan and Jerry West.

On their journey to the Hall of Fame, the city of Phoenix has played some sort of role in the story of many of the inductees playing career.

Davis is the Suns’ all-time leading scorer, six time All-Star and 1978 NBA Rookie of the Year. His number has been retired by the Suns since 1994 and was enshrined to the teams Ring of Honor in 2004.

Although Davis died in 2023 from natural causes, his daughter, Hillary Laird, was on hand to accept the honor for her father. Even though she was a young child when Davis played in Phoenix from 1977-1989, Laird became emotional talking about the importance of her dad receiving this honor in Arizona.

“His college number at Chapel Hill and UNC was 24,” Laird said. “Here we are in 2024 and in Phoenix and it seems like it was just meant to be.”

Davis was not the only newly inducted player from UNC to spend some time in Phoenix with the Suns.

Vince Carter spent 51 games during the 2010-2011 season with the Suns following a midseason trade with the Orlando Magic.

The 2024 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame class addresses the media Saturday, reflecting on their illustrious careers and contributions to the sport. (Photo by Bennett Silvyn/Cronkite News)

In his short stint with the Suns, Carter averaged 13.5 points per game while shooting 36% from 3-point range.

As someone who played in eight cities throughout his 22-year career, Carter believes Phoenix is one of the best cities to host basketball.

“They have very supportive fans and you can see when the (Suns) get to the playoffs and the Finals all the hoopla around him,” Carter said.

Timms is widely considered one of the greatest female basketball players ever out of Australia. All fives season in the WNBA were with the Mercury, who retired her jersey in 2002.

The city of Phoenix played a big role in other Hall of Fame inductees’ careers who may have not played for the Suns.

Players often say that they love playing in Phoenix and Chauncey Billups is no exception.

After winning the 2004 Finals and Finals MVP with the Detroit Pistons, Billups played on the road against the Suns often when he moved west to the Denver Nuggets.

“I always enjoyed coming here to play in the NBA. Playing against Phoenix over the years, they’ve had good teams and we were always here in the winter time so you couldn’t beat the weather,” Billups said.

Following his retirement as a player in 2014, Billups has been around the league in various coaching roles and TV analyst positions. Currently he is the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Although they did receive the call that they made the Hall earlier this week, Billups, Carter and Davis as well as the other 10 people who received the honor have to wait to be officially in.

The class of 2024 will reconvene in Springfield, Massachusetts, in August for the official induction ceremony, but most of them would not be there without Arizona affecting them in some way.

“(Phoenix) is a basketball haven,” Carter said. “There’s a lot of basketball history here. … I feel like Super Bowls and Final Fours come to the cities that have a lot to offer and Phoenix has that.”

Lucas Gordon LOO-kiss GORE-din
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Lucas Gordon expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in business and digital audiences. Gordon has interned at The Arizona Republic.

Bennett Silvyn BEH-nit SIL-vin
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Bennett Silvyn expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in business, marketing and sports management. Silvyn has interned in marketing and social media for the Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission, as a reporter for Arizona Foothills Magazine, in sponsorships for the Arizona Rattlers and in social and digital media for FC Tucson. Silvyn has also reported for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network and The State Press.