Malone, Pippen among 19 Hall of Fame finalists

DALLAS — Two-time NBA MVP Karl Malone, six-time champion Scottie Pippen, and two of the great U.S. Olympic champions are finalists for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. The 1992 Dream Team, which Malone and Pippen played on along with superstars such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, is a finalist in the team category. Also up for induction is the 1960 Olympic gold-medal team, led by Hall of Famers Jerry West and Oscar Robertson, which won its games in Rome by an average margin of 42.4 points. “It was great to play with Larry, Michael and all the guys after all those years,” Johnson said at the news conference. “They said there’s no way we could play together. They underestimated us from the beginning. We didn’t care who scored the points or got their name in the paper. All we cared about was bringing the gold back to the U.S.” The 19 finalists were announced Friday at the start of the NBA’s All-Star weekend. The class of 2010 will be announced April 5 in Indianapolis before the NCAA championship game. The Dream Team is perhaps the best and most famous basketball squad ever. The first that included NBA players in the Olympics, the Americans rolled through Barcelona to enormous fanfare with an average victory margin of 43.8 points. Eight members are already in the Hall of Fame and figure to be joined by at least two more in August. Malone was the NBA’s MVP in 1997 and ’99 and finished his career as the league’s No. 2 scorer with 36,928 points. He never won a title, because Pippen’s teams were in the way both times his Utah Jazz reached the Finals. The versatile forward paired with Jordan to win six titles in the 1990s and was a seven-time All-Star. Malone and Pippen also won gold at the 1996 Olympics. Jordan and John Stockton, Malone’s longtime Jazz teammate, were part of last season’s class. Returning finalists include Chris Mullin, another Dream Teamer, Dennis Johnson, coach Don Nelson and four-time WNBA champion Cynthia Cooper.

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