NBA History: Pioneers Embry, McHale, Zollner inducted into Hall

Sam Amico

It was Oct. 1, 1999 and was a big day for the NBA, a big day for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons.

That's because on Oct. 1, 1999, then-Cavaliers GM Wayne Embry, former Celtics power forward Kevin McHale and Pistons founder Fred Zollner were all among those inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Embry was GM of the Cavs during the cherished era of Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, John "Hot Rod" Williams and coach Lenny Wilkens (and later, Mike Fratello).

Embry was inducted as a "contributor" in recognition of his career both on the court and in the front office. Following a playing career with the Cincinnati Royals, Milwaukee Bucks and Celtics, Embry transitioned into his role as an executive -- becoming the first African-American GM and team president in league history.

Meanwhile, McHale teamed with Larry Bird and Robert Parish up front for the Celtics, forming what many have called the greatest frontcourt in NBA history. McHale's 6-foot-11 frame, long arms and amazing footwork made him downright unguardable on the low block. He showed how basketball should be played in the post.

Finally, Zollner was known affectionately as "Mr. Pro Basketball." How's that for a nickname? It fit, though, as Zollner was Pistons basketball, founding the team with his sister Janet in 1939. Zollnar was also owner of a company that made pistons for cars and the team was actually called the "Zollner Pistons" for a while, playing home games at first in Fort Wayne, Ind. And it was at Zollner's house that the old BAA and NBL agreed to merge and form (drumroll, please) the NBA.

Embry, McHale, Zollner. All three men were pro hoops pioneers in massive ways, and all three got the recognition they deserve on this day.

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