May 17, 2021 

Jackson, Griffith, Ackerman elected to Naismith Hall of Fame

Legendary WBB writer Greenberg gets Gowdy Award, Stiff Lifetime Achievement

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The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (HOF) announced on Sunday that WNBA legends Lauren Jackson and Yolanda Griffith will be inducted into the HOF with the 2021 class. The two former All-Stars will join Val Ackerman, the WNBA’s inaugural president, who will be inducted as a contributor.

Yolanda Griffith graduated from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in 1993 and played in the American Basketball League (ABL) for two seasons. She was selected No. 2 overall by the Sacramento Monarchs in the 1999 WNBA Draft.

Griffith played 11 years in the WNBA, leading the Monarchs to a championship in 2005, where she was named Finals MVP. She is an eight-time WNBA All-Star and was named to the WNBA All-Decade Team and the WNBA Top 15 Players of All Time list. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2000 and 2004) with Team USA and her professional career spanned 16 seasons across leagues in the U.S., Germany, Russia, Italy, South Korea and China. Griffith is currently an assistant coach for Boston College’s women’s basketball team.

Lauren Jackson is an Australian basketball icon and is globally recognized for her four appearances at the Olympic games with the Opals women’s basketball team. She won three silver medals (2000, 2004 and 2008) and a bronze medal (2012) in her Olympic career. Jackson was also a superstar in her home country’s Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), where she is a five-time All-Star and four-time MVP.

Drafted No. 1 overall in the 2001 WNBA Draft, Jackson is a seven-time All-Star who played her entire U.S. career with the Seattle Storm, leading the team to championships in 2004 and 2010. She averaged 18.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during her WNBA career. She was named league MVP a record three times (2003, 2007 and 2010), tied with Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes for most MVP awards.

Val Ackerman will also be inducted into the HOF in recognition for her accomplishments as the WNBA’s founding president. Ackerman guided the league through its historic launch in 1997 before overseeing the league’s day-to-day operations for eight years. In 2005, she became the first woman to serve as president of USA Basketball and was also the first woman elected to represent the U.S. on the board of the International Basketball Federation. She was named the fifth commissioner of the Big East conference in 2013 and still serves in that role.

2021 HOF Award Recipients

The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame also announced that Mel Greenberg is the 2021 recipient of the Curt Gowdy Print Media Award. Greenberg is the first winner in the award’s 31-year history to be honored specifically for women’s basketball coverage. The so-called “Guru,” who reported on women’s basketball for several decades with the Philadelphia Inquirer, is credited for launching the first national women’s college basketball rankings in 1976, which would later become the Associated Press (AP) poll in 1994. Greenberg runs a website and Twitter account where he continues to cover the game.

Mel Greenberg. (photo courtesy of Mel)

Carol Stiff was also awarded by the HOF with the 2021 John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the Naismith Hall of Fame’s most prestigious honor outside of enshrinement. Stiff is vice president of women’s sports programming at ESPN, where she previously worked for 22 years in the programming department, ultimately advancing to the vice president role in April 2010.

In her career, Stiff has overseen the acquisition and scheduling of a variety of sports on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, including NCAA women’s basketball, WNBA, college softball, professional softball and more. She was instrumental in starting the Tennessee-UConn women’s basketball rivalry—widely considered to be the best rivalry in the history of women’s college basketball—by convincing legendary coach Pat Summitt and her Tennessee Volunteers to visit Storrs, Connecticut for a nationally televised game on Martin Luther King Day in 1995. That game began a rivalry that would draw top television ratings and attract a national audience into women’s basketball.

The enshrinement ceremony for the Class of 2021 is scheduled for Saturday, September 11 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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