Nolan Richardson is entering the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.
It is without a doubt a tremendous achievement and worthy honor. It's the ultimate acknowledgment of that thing he spent his life and career fighting for: respect.
Generally, when people enter the Hall, it's appropriate to run down the list of his/her on-the-court achievements. All Arkansas fans are well aware of Richardson's. The 1994 National Championship. Three Final Fours. 389 total wins at Arkansas and 509 overall between the Razorbacks and Tulsa. The Junior College National Title. The NIT title. The cowboy boots.
But that all feels almost trivial with Nolan.
There's so much more to him, as evidenced by the men picked to introduce him into the Hall of Fame tonight: iconic former Georgetown coach John Thompson.
Thompson and Richardson fought many of the same battles as prominent black coaches in an era when that was a very rare and difficult thing to do. Richardson could have used his success at Arkansas to shy away from those controversies, but that would have been against his nature. Richardson even used the peak of his career, the moments after winning the national title, to speak about the challenges black coaches faced. He was willing to participate in a planned boycott (it almost happened) in the midst of that magical season over a new NCAA rule reducing the number of scholarships available to basketball teams - which Richardson and others viewed as disproportionately affecting black players.
There is so much more than that, and I recommend if you have the time to watch the 40 Minutes of Hell SEC Storied documentary from 2012, which is available for streaming on Netflix. It really captures Richardson's life as much as it does his famous style of coaching.
But Nolan is probably most famous for his success at Arkansas. It's apt that he's being inducted in this the 20th anniversary of the national championship.
When I did my series throughout last basketball season celebrating the title team, and all of Arkansas' Final Four teams were honored in Bud Walton late in the season, one thing that really becomes evident is how much those people and those moments mean to the fans who were fortunate enough to experience them.
Those are the things that we use to identify as Razorback fans. It becomes part of who we are. That's why the games with reunions still sell out. That's why, 20 years later, Scotty Thurman still can't do a radio interview without getting asked about that shot - bless his heart. It's what we treasure, what we'll tell our kids about but they won't ever be able to understand as well as those of us who were part of it, even if all we did was cheer behind a television screen.
In some way, all those great Razorback basketball moments we usually try to celebrate every February really do belong to all of us, and Nolan Richardson is responsible for a lot of it. So, thank you and congratulations Coach Richardson on this incredibly hard-earned and well-deserved honor.
How to Watch The Induction Ceremony
Time: 6:30 - 9:30 central. We don't know the order of the inductions yet. Nolan could go at any time in that window.
TV/Internet: NBA TV. The event will be streamed online, presumably at hoophall.com, but not sure.
Where: Springfield, Massachusetts at the Basketball Hall of Fame. If you're in New England you can still buy tickets I think at hoophall.com.