They were opponents as players and coaches, but K.C. Jones and Lenny Wilkens went into the Basketball Hall of Fame together.
Inducted with the two all-star guards Tuesday was William "Pop" Gates, 71, who played with the New York Renaissance and other teams during the game's barnstorming years in the 1930s and 1940s."This was a complete surprise," Jones said before the ceremony. "It isn't the sort of thing that's supposed to happen to people who can't shoot."
Wilkens said he was happy to be installed in the Hall of Fame with Jones. "Playing against him was like going to war. He was a great defensive player and would give you no edge," he said.
"Lenny was a great pleasure to play against, because he was such a challenge," Jones said. "He kept you off balance all the time. He never looked like he was doing anything and he'd have dozens of points and steals."
"Thank you for the greatest honor an athelete can receive," said Gates, one of the first black athletes to sign a professional contract.
"And congratulations to a couple of young dudes (Jones and Wilkens) sitting up here with me. I've enjoyed watching them play, and enjoyed their successes as coaches."
Jones was the 18th person associated with the Boston Celtics to be installed in the Hall of Fame.
He played nine seasons for Boston, during which the Celics won eight NBA championships. He then coached Boston to the 1984 and 1986 championships and stepped down as coach following the 1987-88 season.
"I'm honored to be here with Wilkens and Gates," Jones said in his acceptance speech.
"They exude class as players and individuals. I'm proud and honored to be put among this amazing group of achievers."
Wilkens was graduated from Providence College in 1960 and went on to average 16.5 points and 6.7 assists a game during a 15-year NBA career with St. Louis, Seattle, Portland and Cleveland.
"I never really dreamed I'd be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But I've always felt God smiled on me," Wilkens told the sellout crowd of 1,550. "This I will cherish for the rest of my life."
Wilkens coached the Seattle Supersonics to the NBA championship in 1979.