Dikembe Mutombo, Lisa Leslie among Hall of Fame class

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Monday, April 6, 2015

When it came to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, there was just no rejecting Dikembe Mutombo.The enigmatic shot-blocker heads the 11-member Class of 2015, which was announced Monday.

Mutombo, who played 18 NBA seasons and was an eight-time All-Star selection and four-time NBA defensive player of the year, will be enshrined along with Spencer Haywood, Celtics star Jo Jo White, former WNBA star Lisa Leslie, coach John Calipari and longtime NBA referee Dick Bavetta.

Former Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn, former coach George Raveling, ex-Kentucky and ABA star Louie Dampier, Australian player and coach Lindsay Gaze and John Isaacs, an ex-player who will be inducted posthumously,were previously announced during NBA All-Star Weekend.

Heinsohn was selected as a player in 1986 and is now going in as a coach, thanks to the veterans committee.

Mutombo led the NBA in blocks for five consecutive seasons, famously wagging his finger to celebrate along the way.

Calipari led Kentucky to a 38-0 record before Saturday's season-ending loss to Wisconsin in the national semifinals.

He tweeted about the announcement Monday.

Leslie also tweeted about her new status as a Hall of Famer.

Haywood's NBA career included 14,592 points, 7,038 rebounds and a league title in 1980 with the Lakers. But his legacy goes far beyond that.

A standout at the University of Detroit, he decided to turn pro after his sophomore year, but NBA rules at that point required players to wait four years after high school. He headed to Denver in the ABA, where he was the MVP, and then joined the Seattle SuperSonics despite the NBA's rule. The subsequent court fight went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against the league in a decision that cleared the way for underclassmen -- and one-and-dones -- to play in the NBA.

"There is a real sense of pride in it because of all my sacrifice," Haywood said, explaining how he once was offered a contract not to play if he would just wait another year to comply with the NBA's rules. "Most times, guys look at me and say, 'What did he do?'"

Calipari didn't need a refresher course about how Haywood -- or Kentucky -- helped him reach the Hall of Fame.

He led Massachusetts and Memphis to Final Fours before landing with the Wildcats. There, thanks to a plethora of NBA prospects who have left school early, Calipari has taken Kentucky to four Final Fours in the past five years, won the 2012 national championship, and had Kentucky within two games of becoming the first men's team in major college basketball to complete a perfect season. That quest ended Saturday with Kentucky's loss to Wisconsin.

Without his young stars, or his ties to Big Blue Nation, Calipari might not have made it.

"I always wanted to have a job like the other guys,'' Calipari said. "I had nothing against Massachusetts or Memphis, but you were always kind of at the little table and it left me wondering what would happen if I got one of those jobs. ... I'll say it again, if I don't get hired by Kentucky, I don't know [if I make it], maybe.''

Candidates needed at least 18 of 24 votes from the honors committee to be inducted. The enshrinement ceremony is Sept. 11 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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