Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Introduction and Robin Roberts' Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech

By Mel Greenberg

All weekend in speeches, greetings and other activities, each of the six newest inductees to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as the 14th class exhibited their own special star power.

Of course, in the induction of ABC Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts, though she played at Southeastern Louisiana, her honor came as a result of her offcourt work as the original broadcaster of women's games for ESPN when the sports cable network began working with the NCAA.

She also followed the year-long pursuit of the 1996 Olympic team, which eventually landed a gold medal at the Atlanta Games, even hosting them at her house for dinner one night.

Tbough many of us spent time in Robin's company at the events and in sociality in the Marriott Lobby next door to the Hall and talked about her past battle against breast cancer and her eloquent book, few, if any, knew of the secret she was holding before revealing it on the air at the end of Monday morning's telecast, as well as in an open letter 0n ABC's website.

As ensuing coverage has indicated, Robin, 51, she said has a rare blood disorder affecting the bone marrow and will need a transplant.

Details can be easily found elsewhere but because of the interest in her, the Guru is breaking out his post-induction coverage to present Robert's portion of the weekend activities highlighted by Saturday night's acceptance in the Bijou Theater that came at the end of a busy week in which she had been to London for GMA to interview the Queen of England.

For those reading this first without other reference to the weekend, each of the inductees were presented by someone of their choosing in a video clip before they mounted the stage of the Bijou Theatre to come to the podium and give their acceptance speech.

Tennis great and women's sports advocate Billie Jean King offered the introduction followed by Roberts, the fifth of the six honorees, giving her appreciation comments.

What follows is as best as could be done -- the Guru had to sit in a special area as a past inductee (2007) and may not have gotten every little word on tape -- the audio transcription of King's remarks and Roberts speech.

Billie Jean King Introduction of Robin Roberts

Hi. I'm Billie Jean King and it is my honor to be part of Robin Roberts' induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Robin embodies the team concept in sports and in life.

On the basketball court, coaches from her junior high school days to her stellar career at Southeastern Louisiana University told her she passed the ball too much.

But fortunately for her teammates and for all of us Robin wanted every one to be part of the success and to be part of a team.

And that is a big part as to who Robin Roberts is.

She is the all-time leading scorer and leading rebounder at Southeastern Louisiana and one of only three Lady Lions to score 1,000 career points and grabbed 1,000 career rebounds.

Last year, the university honored her by retiring her jersey -- No. 21.

Yeah, baby!

Robin was quite the star on the basketball court but today her star shines even brighter. As the anchor of ABC's Good Morning America, Robin is one of the leading television personalities in the nation.

When Robin first got offered to go to Good Morning America, she was hesitant. And I remember us having a conversation about her being at a crossroads in her career.

She felt she was abandoning women's sports and basketball. But several of us told her the move to Good Morning America would elevate all of us to a bigger stage.

Not that long ago, I read a story about Robin and her battle with breast cancer.

In it, she said, she was not just a survivor but a thriver.

She truly lends all of herself to everything she does. She was there for her teammates on the court, she was there for the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and she is there as a voice and a face of courage for all people living with cancer.

As an athlete Robin knew how to handle the ball and that has served her well in life. Sports gave her the confidence and the courage to venture outside of her comfort zone and to take risks in life.

Perhaps it is only fitting that Robin be inducted tonight, not as a player, but as a contributor.

She loves her friends, family and has made such a difference in so many lives, including mine. And today she continues to shine her light on others.

Please welcome my friend, a true champion in life and a 2012 inductees to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame -- Robin Roberts.

Robin Roberts' Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech
(slightly edited off the audio transcription)

There are times that I wish my last name began with the letter `A' so I can be one of the first ones up here because these are some mighty hard acts to follow.

This has been an especially memorable night. An incredible night.

I began the week, in London, with the Queen of England. But now I'm in Knox-Vegas with basketball royalty.

To say that I am honored is a vast understatement, especially with the inductees. We have had a great time this weekend with the families getting to know one another as well.

As (emcee) Debbie (Antonelli) announced the past Hall of Famers who are here, just to be mentioned with you is more than ever that I could have imagined.

But there's only one Hall of Famer who can say, she hit a hole-in-one yesterday.

(Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt on the golf course Friday).

My goodness. As (former Tennessee star and inductee) Nikki (McCray) referred to early, in 1995 I went and covered the Olympic team at Colorado Springs (Colo.).

And ESPN thought it would be a great idea for me to do a story where I actually got on the court with these magnificent players.

And (USA Basketball executive) Carol Callan was great giving me all the USA gear and I got on the court and Hall of Famer (former Auburn star) Ruthie Bolton, looked me up and down and said .. and I said, I'm going to play with you all.

She said, Really?

And we started playing, and I was doing all right and the biggest compliment she gave me was, after the scrimmage, You're all right for media.

I'll take it.

I knew early on I wasn't going to have the kind of career the inductees I share the stage with tonight have. That's OK.

Because I'm a proud product of Title IX.

Yes, I'll be honest. I wanted to be a professional athlete. But there's something called, wait a minute, I remember, ability, (inaudible) to be a professional athlete.

And I knew that was not going to be my course in life.

But I knew I wanted to contribute to the game. That I still wanted to be a part of the game. And I realized in high school that was going to be through being a journalist.

So that in high school, thankfully, that was after Title IX.

And I remember playing rec ball at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, that was all that was available to us.

And then after Title IX, Nicholls Junior High, we got a basketball team.

We got out there with our one little unitard that we had, official physicial education device, that we taped a number on the back, many of us remember that, but we were still very happy.

And I went to (inaudible) high. And I realized I wasn't going to be that professional athlete, so I knew I wanted that college education so I could put myself in position for good things to happen to me.

Proximity is power. I'm a very spiritual person.

I began every day with a prayer of protection. The life of God surrounds me. The love of God embolds me. The power of God protects me. The presence of God watches over me. Wherever I am, God is.

Start each and every day like that. Because you have to put yourself in position.

So my senior year at (inaudible) High School, Mississippi, I didn't go to lunch. Because I had to learn a new position (inudible).

But I was considered tall at (inaudible) High, so I had to play the post position.

But nobody wanted a 5-10 post player in college. So in my senior year in high school, learning to go to my right, not because I wanted to be freshman of the year at Southeastern Louisiana University, which I was, please hold your applause, learning to shoot that sweet jumper because I wanted to be MVP, two years running, at Southeastern Louisiana University.

I was finding another way to contribute.

And when I was there at Southeastern Louisiana University, I fell in love. That university is so part of my heart and DNA. And many of the Southeastern family made the trip from Hammond, La., to be here, waving there flags and all that.

And it was at Southeastern Louisiana where they taught me to be a student-athlete and I was getting good teaching and they allowed me to get the practical experience to start my broadcasting career.

So I could tell your stories. So I could shine the spotlight on each and every one of you and this game that we love so much.

And there was a little radio station in Hammond, La., WFPR, and I looked at them, and I said, I want to be your sports director. I want to be to get some experience.

And it was owned by the Chauvin Family. Mrs. Chauvin is here, tonight.

And they said, Sure. Tell you what. You can work for us. And you can have your sports experience. And you can have your news experience and all those things.

But you have to have be a DJ on the weekends. And I'm, I don't have time to do that.

And they said, didn't we tell you. We're country music radio.

(imitates a country DJ).

And because of Southeastern, because of my family, because of the Chauvins, you allowed me the opportunity to contribute.

And that led to ESPN.

John A. Walsh is here. Steve Anderson is here. And we all know Carole Stiff.

They are the reason why I am here.


They encouraged me to contribute. They gave me a platform to tell your stories.

And so when you're a contributor. You're very fortunate to have many teammates. Many people to thank. And I thank my teammates from Nicholls Junior High, (inaudible) High, Southeastern Louisiana University, WFPR, ESPN, and my family and friends and loved ones -- she names them.

You all know me. You know my faults and shortcomings and you love me anyway. And that's something I can never ever say thank you enough for.

For all your unconditional love and support through all the challenges and things.

And lastly, my family. My nephew, Lawrence Roberts III, escorted me on the stage, his beauiful wife Kelly by his side is pregnant with twins.

That means four generations of the Roberts family are here tonight.

My big brother Lawrence Roberts II, Butch is what we call him.

And he would take me out and play -- I didn't have to worry about some of the stories you heard -- they would say you're not good enough or you have loved ones who wouldn't let you play with them.

I didn't have to worry about that, with my big brother.

(She thanks other family members).

And I'm saving the last for the biggest member of the family. And my mother, On Tuesday of this week, she said to my sister Dorothy, I don't think I'm going to make it.

I don't think I'm going to get to Knoxville. I want to but I'm just not well enough. She's had some health concerns.

And then she said last night, that she shared this story, there were prisoners, two of them, and they were behind bars and one would look out and see the mud and the other would look out and see the stars.

And she decided she was going to look out and see the stars. And among the stars tonight, momma, you're the brightest star.

You may not remember some of the things that have been said tonight. You may not remember some of the things we did tonight. But I hope and pray you never forget how we made you feel tonight and how you made us feel tonight and this is a moment in time that I will never forget.

And I thank you from the bottom of my heart and continued blessings.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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