From left to right: Dr. Lonise Bias (accepting on behalf of Len Bias) , Capitals winger Peter Bondra, Wizards broadcaster Steve Buckhantz, NBA All-Star Grant Hill. DC United striker Jaime Moreno, Hall of Fame selection committee member Phil Wood, Capitals marketing staffer Lew Strudler (accepting on behalf of David Poile), retired tennis star Eleni Rossides, Maryland basketball star Walt Williams, sports statistician Marty Aranoff, Hall of Fame co-chair Charlie Brotman, Hall of Fame co-chair Andy Ockershausen, and Nationals vice chairman Mark Lerner. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club.)
By Wes Brown
Induction Day for the Washington, D.C. Sports Hall of Fame is always special – but this year (Sunday, May 6) was truly remarkable for basketball fans. Reston native Grant Hill, and Prince George’s County products Walt Williams and the late Len Bias – both University of Maryland Hall of Famers, were enshrined at Nationals Park along with super statistician Marty Aronoff and Steve Buckhantz, “the voice” of the Washington Wizards.
Also inducted were retired tennis star Eleni Rossides, former DC United superstar Jaime Moreno and the late former Washington Senator standout Charles Solomon “Buddy” Myer, whose plaque was accepted by Nationals commentator Phil Wood.
They were inducted alongside a pair of integral Washington Capitals franchise members, winger Peter Bondra, who holds the franchise records in power play goals (137), game-winning goals (73), short-handed goals (32) and hat tricks (19), and former Capitals General Manager David Poile, who drafted Bondra and is credited with helping to save the Washington Capitals. Lew Strudler of the Washington Capitals marketing staff accepted Poile’s award, as Poile was occupied with his Nashville Predators in the NHL Playoffs.
While this class touched many sports, it spoke loudest about the history of basketball in the Washington, D.C. area. Williams and Bias (accepted by his mother, Dr. Lonise Bias) represented the University of Maryland. Hill was an all-American at Duke and played 19 years in the NBA, making seven all-star teams. He will be inducted this year into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Hill is now a successful broadcaster. Williams also had a lengthy NBA career after a sensational four years in College Park. Bias died of a cocaine overdose in 1986 after a brilliant college career at Maryland.
Aronoff, who was one of six area natives inducted, reflected on his honor. “I used to take the street car down to Griffith Stadium (to watch the Washington Senators in 1951). As a native Washingtonian, now being inducted into the Washington Sports Hall of Fame is one of the great, great honors of my life.”
Dr. Bias represented her late son Len Bias by saying; “My family and I are here to accept the award, and we are absolutely thrilled. Some people are saying ‘Oh it took so long,’ but good things come to those who wait.”
Bondra and Moreno both shared the fact that they were imported to the Washington, D.C. area, but the city is entrenched in their hearts. “As a guy coming with no English 28 years ago, to being right here is unbelievable,” said Bondra. Moreno would continue that sentiment by saying “It is an honor for me to be here with so many athletes and people that I admire. It’s also an unbelievable feeling because I’m not actually from America, but this is my second country and I am happy to be here.”
Despite spending his college years at Duke University and playing against his hometown Terrapins, Hill noted that this is truly home. “D.C. takes great pride in its teams and is a great sports town. Growing up here inspired me to want to be in sports. To be here with some folks that I know and people that I have admired for years is truly a great honor.”
Buckhantz shared a similar sentiment about establishing his broadcasting career in his hometown. “My job is a blessing because of what I do and get to do, but the bigger issue for me is being able to work and collaborate with all the folks in this room. Working in this great city, great sports town and great broadcasting town is that when you get an honor like this bestowed upon you, (it) makes those who care very much for you so proud. And to me, that’s the biggest thing that I take out of this day.”
Rossides, a graduate of Sidwell Friends, showed her love for Washington by sharing a story from her college teammates, who said; “The first day she stepped foot at Stanford, we knew she was going back to Washington.” Once her playing career was over, Rossides return home to grow the popularity of tennis, by helping establish the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation, which she said was “really, really important” to her. “I love being here and I am proud to share this with everyone here.”
Williams also noted the importance of this day for Washington, D.C. basketball. “There’s just so many great players that have come from this area. It’s normally a handful of guys that come from different places, but for us here, it’s nothing to get to the highest level. To be recognized at such a level here is such an honor, I can’t even describe it in words.”
Williams took a moment to reflect back on Bias as well, saying “ With all due respect, it’s way too late, Dr. Bias. Len Bias should have been here. I’m glad they did delay it, so I have a chance to go in with him.”