UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Mike Breen remembers the way he was taught the game of basketball, and quickly learned that it is best when the five players on the floor work as one.
He took the same approach into his career.
Breen — the longtime voice of the New York Knicks as well as the NBA on ESPN and ABC — was one of the honorees Friday night by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, one of the Curt Gowdy Media Award winners that pay tribute to the game’s best storytellers in various mediums.
“That team aspect has been the story of my life,” Breen said. “From growing up as one of six boys in Yonkers, New York to now, I’ve had the greatest teammates a man could ever hope for — every step of the way.”
Breen is perhaps best known for his signature call — “Bang!” — when someone makes a 3-pointer at a particularly clutch moment. He was the last speaker at Friday night’s Gala and Awards Show, during which this weekend’s enshrinees received their orange Hall of Fame blazers.
The Gowdy Award has four categories; Breen won the electronic media division, Jim Gray the media insight category, Michael Wilbon for print journalism and Turner Sports’ “Inside The NBA” broadcast team of Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith won in the transformative media category.
Also honored Friday: Wayne Embry, George Raveling and Bill Russell as recipients of the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award, and Dr. Timothy Nugent — who founded the National Wheelchair Basketball Association in 1949 — as the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Nugent died in 2015.
Russell was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1975, is now a Mannie Jackson winner and is a finalist to be inducted again by the Hall later this year — this time as a coach.
The 2021 class of enshrinees will be announced on Sunday. Among the many finalists: former Miami Heat star Chris Bosh, Villanova coach Jay Wright and longtime NBA coach Rick Adelman.
It won’t be long until the Hall of Fame is inducting another class — less than four months, to be precise, if things go according to plan.
Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva said Friday that the 2021 class will be enshrined on Sept. 10 and 11, with events planned at Mohegan Sun — the site of this weekend’s celebrations — and back at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts as well.
“We’re on a roll, and we really look forward to this event and producing a wonderful summer visitation series with people coming, as well as the enshrinement just after Labor Day,” Doleva said. “It’s going to be a busy year for the Naismith Hall of Fame.”
Those September dates are, of course, contingent on the pandemic not forcing plans to be rearranged.
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers thinks this Hall of Fame class will be “one of the greatest” to be enshrined, plus sees some irony in how Tim Duncan is part of the group being honored this weekend.
“Tim Duncan, I still think, is the most underrated superstar in the history of the game,” Rivers said. “It’s such a fitting weekend for him to go in, because he’ll be overshadowed, and it’s probably exactly the way he wants it.”
Duncan is sharing the spotlight this weekend with two of his longtime rivals and fellow perennial All-Stars — Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.
And Rivers has a deep affinity for both of those players as well.
“It’s still sad that Kobe cannot get the award and give his own speech,” Rivers said. “I think, for most of us, that’ll be more of a reminder of that.”
Garnett played for Rivers in Boston, including during the 2008 Celtics’ NBA title season.
“He means the world to me,” Rivers said.
The Hall of Fame paid tribute to 16 of its enshrinees who have died since the last induction ceremony in 2019, doing so with a page in their honor in the official program for this weekend’s events.
On the list: former NBA Commissioner David Stern (Hall Class of 2014), Kobe Bryant (2020), Morgan Wootten (2000), Boris Stankovic (1991), Jerry Sloan (2009), Eddie Sutton (2020), Wes Unseld (1988), Lute Olsen (2002), John Thompson (1999), Tom Jernstedt (2017), Tommy Heinsohn (1986 and 2015), K.C. Jones (1989), Paul Westphal (2019), John Chaney (2001), Elgin Baylor (1977) and Slick Leonard (2014).