New LSU women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey's choice to present her for Naismith Hall of Fame induction this weekend couldn't do it. But she got a heck of a substitute: Michael Jordan.
Mulkey said she had hoped her former coach and boss at Louisiana Tech, Leon Barmore, could do it. However, he has been dealing with illness and couldn't travel.
It's required that presenters be Hall of Famers themselves.
"So I said, 'How about we just ask someone who is already going to be there?'" Mulkey said Wednesday. "And they just casually said, 'Michael Jordan is doing it for Kobe Bryant.' Well, Michael and I were in the Olympics together, and so they asked him. And he said, 'Sure, I'll do that.' I'm so thankful he agreed to do it and was so gracious."
Mulkey will be one of nine inductees, which on the women's side also includes former Tennessee, Indiana Fever and USA Basketball star player Tamika Catchings, and longtime Bentley coach Barbara Stevens. This is the class of 2020, but the induction was delayed to this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremony will be at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, and will be televised on ESPN from 5:30 to 8 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Mulkey has had a whirlwind past few weeks, as she left Baylor after 21 seasons and three national championships as head coach. This weekend will be a chance for her to talk to Jordan again about the summer of '84, when both the U.S. men's and women's basketball teams won gold in the Los Angeles Olympics.
Jordan had been drafted by the NBA's Bulls earlier that summer, and Mulkey had finished her college career at Louisiana Tech. Mulkey said after the Olympics ended in August, the U.S. medalists visited the White House and toured various U.S. cities.
"I've got so many pictures of that time," Mulkey said. "The Southland Corporation got like three planes to take all the medal-winning U.S. athletes on a tour, and it was a blast. We had a ticker-tape parade in New York City, we went to Dallas for another parade. We're talking Olympians like Evander Holyfield, Mary Lou Retton, Rowdy Gaines.
"One of the most vivid memories I have with Michael Jordan is when we were getting ready to walk into the opening ceremony. I mean, just think of those Olympic basketball teams."
Along with Jordan, the men's squad included players such as Patrick Ewing, Sam Perkins, Chris Mullin, Wayman Tisdale and Joe Kleine. They were coached by Bob Knight. Among the women's players, along with Mulkey, were Cheryl Miller, Anne Donovan, Teresa Edwards, Pam McGee and Lynette Woodard. The coach was Pat Summitt.
Catchings, of course, would have loved it if her former Lady Vols coach Summitt could have been her presenter this weekend. The two won an NCAA title together in 1998, Catchings' freshman season at Tennessee. Summitt died in 2016 of early onset dementia. So Catchings will have two presenters: former NBA player Alonzo Mourning, and former WNBA player and current South Carolina women's coach Dawn Staley.
A five-time WNBA defensive player of the year, Catchings said she was always inspired by Mourning's defense. And Catchings, who is now the Fever's general manager, recalls the 1996 Olympic women's basketball team, which Staley played on, as being a big inspiration for her as a high school player. Catchings would go on to play in four Olympics herself, including as Staley's teammate in 2004.
"My father played in the NBA for 11 years, but outside of my house, Zo was my first role model," said Catchings, who won the 2011 WNBA MVP award and the 2012 league title. "It was just the way that he played the game. It was the same way that I play.
"With Dawn, I've talked a lot about just what her impact has been for me from a leadership standpoint. Being a leader on that 2004 Olympic team, watching her navigate that, really helped me develop into a leader here with the Fever and eventually the Olympic team."