Johnston, Monroe Among 4 Picked For Basketball Hall

Posted: February 09, 1990

The late Neil Johnston, who played center for the old Philadelphia Warriors, and guard Earl Monroe, a Philadelphia native, were among four former NBA stars elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame yesterday.

Joining Johnston and Monroe were guard Dave Bing and forward Elvin Hayes.

The four will be inducted May 15, joining 168 individuals and four teams already enshrined in Springfield, Mass., the city where basketball was born nearly a century ago.

Johnston, who died in 1978, while playing basketball in Bedford, Texas, at the age of 48, decided to try professional basketball after his minor-league baseball career was cut short by a sore pitching arm.

He played eight seasons with the Warriors and led the NBA in scoring in 1952-53 and 1953-54 and in scoring and rebounding in 1954-55. He played in the NBA All-Star Game six times before a knee injury ended his professional career. He then coached the Warriors for two seasons, starting in 1959-60, compiling a record of 95-59.

Johnston, who stood 6-foot-8, specialized in the mid-range hook shot. In 1980, he was named to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. The plaque he received posthumously hangs in the 76ers' offices at Veterans Stadium.

Monroe, 45, a Bartram High graduate who starred for the New York Knicks and the old Baltimore Bullets, was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame on his fourth try.

Flashy and elusive, he averaged 41.5 points a game in his senior year at Winston-Salem (N.C.) State, leading the Rams to the 1967 NCAA small-college championship. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1967-68, his first season with Baltimore.

During his 12-year pro career, he averaged 18.8 points a game and played in four All-Star Games. He totaled 17,454 points.

He is the sixth player from the Knicks' 1972-73 NBA championship team to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Monroe enjoyed a reputation for flamboyance, both in Philadelphia and nationally. According to an often repeated story, he once left his Rolls Royce parked in the middle of Broad Street, walked into the Baker League All-Star Game at Temple's McGonigle Hall and hit his first eight shots from the field without warming up.

Hayes, who played for the Houston Rockets and the Baltimore and Washington Bullets, said he was delighted to get a chance to enter the Hall of Fame in such good company.

"Dave Bing gave so much to the game, and Earl Monroe was the first 'Mr. Magic' and did so much for basketball," he said. "I'm only sorry that Neil Johnston isn't around to enjoy it."

After starring at the University of Houston, where his 1968 confrontation with UCLA's Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) at the Astrodome attracted what then was the largest crowd to watch a college game, Hayes was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1968-69, when he led the league in scoring with 28.4 points a game. He averaged 21 points and 12.5 rebounds a game and played in 12 All-Star Games in his 16-year pro career.

Hayes was the only one of the four new Hall of Famers elected in his first year of eligibility.

Bing, who was an all-American at Syracuse University, was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1967 with the Detroit Pistons. He led the league in scoring, averaging 27 points a game, the following season, and he averaged 20 points and six assists in his 12-year pro career with the Pistons, the Washington Bullets and the Boston Celtics.

His jersey was the first retired by the Pistons. After his retirement from basketball, he founded Detroit's Bing Steel, now one of the nation's largest minority-owned steel companies. He is to be honored by the NBA for his achievements after leaving basketball during this weekend's All-Star Game festivities in Miami.

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