The dream starts the same for millions upon millions of kids growing up. Someday they'll grow up to play in the NBA, score a lot of points, make a number of all-star teams, win a few rings, maybe even a gold medal. Very few ever come close. Fewer still actually realize those dreams.
Among that elite group of the finest players ever to play the game are three men being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame today: John Stockton, David Robinson, and Michael Jordan.
There's nothing I can say here that hasn't already been said about these players and their legendary careers, but as a Lakers fan who spent many years rooting against them, I want to briefly pay my respects to three historic careers (Twitter style, in 140 characters or less)
John Stockton: Not big, not fast, not strong, but the all-time leader in assists and steals. No one before or since threw a better bounce pass.
David Robinson: Smoother than Ewing, stronger than Hakeem, more athletic than Shaq, mentor to Duncan. The Admiral was admirable on and off the court.
Michael Jordan: Winner, champion, G.O.A.T., played w/ an aura of invincibility from 91-98 that may never be duplicated again. Inspired a generation to fly.
Thinking about the Hall of Fame and its relation to the D-League is interesting. When this class of Hall of Famers retired, the D-League was in its infancy, and I'm fairly certain none of these players ever played WITH a D-League alum, let alone playing in the D-League themselves.
However, this will not be true for long. Kobe Bryant's Lakers featured a number of players with D-League experience, including contributors like Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown that played key supporting roles in L.A.'s 2009 NBA championship run.
That leads to my next question. Who will be the first D-League player inducted into the Hall of Fame? Or maybe I should ask, will a D-League player (meaning someone who played in the D-League at some point in time) ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame? I say yes, assuming the D-League is here to stay. But I don't know that that player, whoever he is, is even playing professionally just yet as the D-League is still developing and maturing in its affiliation as a minor league system for the NBA.
Still, look how far the league has come. There are D-League alumni sprinkled across the rosters of NBA teams. Someone like Dahntay Jones, a former D-League mainstay, started the majority of games last year in Denver for the Nuggets, a Western Conference finalist.
It's far from impossible to think that someday 15, 20, 25 years from now, someone will be writing the story of some player who was drafted young and seasoned in the D-League before rising to stardom in the NBA. And it'll be a great story if and when it happens.
Until then, we'll celebrate the greats and keep our eyes on the others trying to make those dreams a reality. Speaking of those others, Sham Sports has a tremendous three-part piece detailing the whereabouts of all of the players from Summer League. Of interest to Erie BayHawks fans, the Cleveland Cavaliers Summer League team is featured in part one, Erik Daniels (currently unsigned) can be found under the Grizzlies section of part two and the Toronto Raptors Summer League players are included in part three.
Keep the dream alive. We may never see another Stockton, Robinson, or Jordan, but there is plenty of basketball greats waiting to shine, and who knows, some of themt just may pass through Erie on their way to the top.