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Wednesday, June 5
Updated: September 23, 10:42 AM ET
Johnson, Brown elected to Hall of Fame

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Magic Johnson flashed that million dollar smile countless times Wednesday -- and no wonder?

The man who set the standard for point guards with his all-around brilliance in leading the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships in the 1980s was introduced as a member of the 2002 class elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"To represent the Lakers organization is truly a blessing -- a kid from Lansing,'' Johnson said of his Michigan hometown. "All I wanted to do was be the best I could be.''

And what he turned out to be was one of the best of all time.

Others who will be inducted into the Hall on Sept. 27, are Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown; University of Arizona coach Lute Olson; the late Drazen Petrovic, a star with the Portland Trail Blazers and New Jersey Nets; North Carolina State women's coach Kay Yow, and the Harlem Globetrotters.

That makes 246 individuals and five teams in the Hall.

The inductees, along with Petrovic's mother, were introduced at a downtown hotel less than a mile from where the Lakers and Nets were scheduled to play Game 1 of the NBA Finals later Wednesday.

It was the first time the Hall of Fame, located in Springfield, Mass., has introduced its new members on the West Coast.

"It's been a great ride, this is a great moment for me, my family,'' Johnson said. "I'm emotional, I'm sure I'll be more emotional in September. I tried to represent the city and the organization the best I could. By doing that, this is my reward.

"Every guy I played with has a piece of it. It's the cake, ice cream. Because I've been working out, I get two slices.''

Johnson joined the Lakers in 1979 after leading Michigan State to the NCAA championship in his sophomore year.

In addition to helping the Lakers dominate the 1980s, he orchestrated "Showtime'' and combined with Boston's Larry Bird to lift the NBA to unprecedented popularity.

"Once we won all those championships, I thought I had a good chance to get in,'' Johnson said with a laugh. "The Olympics was probably my biggest thrill to date. This is bigger.''

Johnson was a member of the original Dream Team which won an Olympic gold medal in the 1992 Games.

Perhaps Johnson's most memorable performance helped the Lakers win the sixth and last game of the NBA Finals at Philadelphia in the spring of 1980 for the first championship of his era.

The 20-year-old rookie filled in for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center and had 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Lakers past the 76ers.

Johnson retired abruptly in November 1991 after learning he had tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS, but played in the NBA All-Star Game that winter and excelled, and then was an Olympian the following summer.

He was planning a comeback in 1992, but it fizzled after several players expressed discomfort because Johnson was HIV positive, and he went on to other things. But Johnson returned again to play the last half of the 1995-96 season with the Lakers before calling it quits.

Since then, the 42-year-old Johnson has been involved in several business ventures as well as serving as an executive with the Lakers, who are attempting to become only the fifth team in NBA history to win as many as three straight championships.

"Everything is for a reason, I don't go back,'' he said. "HIV happened for a reason. I'm a person who moves forward and I continue to do it.''

The 61-year-old Brown has won more than 1,200 games in 30 seasons, including in the ABA and college. He won an NCAA title at Kansas in 1988, and led the 76ers to the NBA Finals last season after winning coach of the year honors for the first time in his NBA career.

"To get in was something I never believed would happen,'' Brown said. "To get in with (the Globetrotters), Magic, people like that, it doesn't get any better.''

Brown has posted winning records in 26 of his 30 seasons; his record in the NBA is 831-651, he was 229-107 in the ABA and 177-61 in college.

The 67-year-old Olson has a 767-255 record in 29 years as a Division I college coach -- the last 18 at Arizona. He has coached five teams to the Final Four and the Wildcats won the NCAA championship in 1997.

Petrovic, who died nine years ago in an automobile accident in Germany, was a star for the teams from Yugoslavia (1988) and Croatia (1992) that won Olympic silver medals. He averaged 15.4 points in four NBA seasons before his death at age 28.

Yow, 60, has a 611-252 record at Elon (1972-75) and North Carolina State (1976-present). By winning her 600th game on Jan. 11, 2001, she became the fifth women's coach ever to reach that milestone.

Founded in 1927, the Globetrotters have entertained fans throughout the world, playing more than 20,000 games in over 100 countries.

"We're quite thrilled,'' said 69-year-old Tex Harrison, who played for the team from 1954-72 and has been its coach since 1968. "This is the highest honor ever bestowed upon the Harlem Globetrotters, and there have been many.''

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