In the closing number of one of my all-time favorite children’s movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol, a newly reformed Ebenezer Scrooge tells us, “If you want to know the measure of a man, you simply count his friends.” Watching Charlie Scott inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday Night, I found myself reminded of the line.
New Hall of Fame inductees are accompanied to the podium by a current member of the Hall, to stand alongside them as they give their induction speech. To be asked to stand for a new inductee is a tremendous honor and responsibility and the willingness of that member to stand honors the inductee in turn. We all remember Michael Jordan remarking how he “Shocked the s**t” out of David Thompson by asking him to stand for him. There are usually one or two Hall of Famers that accompany a new inductee, sometimes three.
Charlie Scott had FIVE Hall of Famers stand for him: Roy Williams, Julius Erving, Dave Cowens, Spencer Haywood, and Jerry Colangelo. Three all-time NBA players, a legendary college coach, and one of the most successful sports executives in the world. As Scott explains “These guys are friends of mine of over 40 years.” Any man who can call Roy Williams and Julius Erving a close friend needs no further endorsement of their character. Any player who can have a teammate like Dave Cowens, one of the hardest working players the sport has ever seen, stand beside him needs to further confirmation of their work ethic and commitment to the team. The men who stood beside Charlie Scott Friday night are a testament to his deserving and long overdue induction.
Of course, it’s Scott’s connection with the man who couldn’t stand there that is the ultimate testament. No true lover of Tar Heel basketball needs to be reminded of what Dean Smith and Charlie Scott meant to each other, to Carolina basketball, and to the University of North Carolina as a whole. And anyone who does need a reminder need look no further than last night’s speech: On Scott’s chest was the black button with the letters ‘DES,’ the same that was worn at Smith’s funeral three years ago. He would pay tribute to “(My) mentor and the person I admire the most in my life: Coach Dean Smith.”
Scott also wore a green #10 button for his late teammate, Hall of Famer Jo Jo White, who passed away in January. Message is clear: Had things been different, Charlie would have had SEVEN men standing on that stage with him. You know what? Forget the men standing onstage with him. Charlie Scott is a testament to himself.
There was humor in his speech as well. His opening words: “I’m following a Duke guy and I just learned that Duke and a short speech is an oxymoron.” The first minute of his speech featured no less than three jabs at that school eight miles up the road. He was talking about his close friend and fellow inductee Lefty Driesell, a fellow ACC mainstay. Both men have had to wait a long time for their induction, but perhaps the fact that they are coming in together will make it worth it.
Other great quips included:
- To Erving and Cowens: “I made you two great rebounders when I played with you.”
- On the length of his speech: “I’m not going by the clock. The Duke guys (Driesell and Grant Hill) didn’t go by the clock. I’m gonna say what I need to say.”
- His wife’s comment about his old friend’s being on the stage with him: “If they’re still you’re friends after listening to you talk for 40 years, they DESERVE to be on that stage.”
But above all his speech had tremendous gravity. His heartfelt tribute to Roy Williams mentioned how honored he was that Roy named his son for him (Roy’s eldest is named Scott). He thanked his Tar Heel teammates of the late 60s who “stood shoulder to shoulder with me and took abuse that you didn’t have to and never wavered.”
And his final words perfectly encapsulated everything he signifies as a Tar Heel and as a man: “I am very proud to be an alumnus of the University of North Carolina. But more importantly, I am proud to be standing up here as a black man that took a path that wasn’t easy, but was the right path to take.”