CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Cavaliers have announced that Wayne Embry, Bill Fitch, the late John Johnson, Nick Mileti and the late John “Hot Rod” Williams will make up the inaugural class of the Wall of Honor — a new way to pay tribute to individuals who have made significant contributions to the organization and played a distinguished, pivotal role in franchise history.
“These five great Cavaliers represent a wonderful inaugural class and debut for the Wall of Honor program,” said Cavaliers and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse CEO Len Komoroski. “We can look at each of their unique contributions to the franchise and clearly see the significant impact they had and the special place they hold and deserve as part of our history. We also look forward to the continuation of the program in years to come and future recognition for others that have earned their inclusion as part of this very special place of honor within the Cavaliers franchise.”
The official induction ceremony will be held during Cleveland’s Nov. 17 home game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Wall of Honor, which will reside prominently in the North Atrium area of newly-transformed Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse’s main concourse, will feature a mosaic of custom designed tiles that represent each honoree.
In addition to the five new members, the Wall of Honor will also include tiles for eight people who have previously had their jerseys retired by the Cavs: Austin Carr, Brad Daugherty, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Larry Nance Sr., Mark Price, Bobby “Bingo” Smith, Nate Thurmond and Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Joe Tait.
The voters — a diverse group comprised of longtime Cavaliers staff, broadcasters and legends — selected the inaugural class earlier this year, using specific criteria. Each honoree must have been part of the Cavs organization for at least two seasons and had to be retired from playing or working for the Cavs for at least five seasons. That’s why LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, two players who had a pivotal role in the franchise’s first NBA title, were not yet eligible for induction.
In addition to those two stipulations, the five-person class — and future inductees — must also have exhibited two or more of the following traits:
- Strong personal character that elevated the organization and inspired those around them;
- Significant community commitment focused on improving the quality of life in and around the city;
- Standout individual game performance and a competitive impact that improved both the team and their teammates; and
- Be reflective of the “All For One, One For All” commitment throughout the organization.
Embry, the first African-American team president and chief operating officer of an NBA team, was part of Cleveland’s front office from 1986-1999. During his tenure with the Cavs, they reached the playoffs nine times. He was the first Cavalier to be named NBA Executive of the Year, capturing the honor twice (1991-92 and 1997-98).
Fitch was the first head coach of the Cavs and went on to be the longest tenured coach in franchise history, serving in that role from 1970-79. He led the team to the playoffs three times, including “The Miracle of Richfield” season in 1975-76 — a season in which the team had their first winning record (49-33) and won its first division title.
Johnson, the franchise’s first ever draft pick, averaged 15.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 231 games for the Cavs. In addition to being the Cavs’ first player drafted, Johnson recorded the team’s initial triple-double while also being its first All-Star, named to the team twice (1971 and 1972).
A Cleveland-area lawyer, Mileti purchased Cleveland Arena in 1968, leading to the creation of the Cavaliers in 1970. He also built the Richfield Coliseum, the largest NBA arena when it opened for play in 1974. Mileti owned the team from 1970-80.
Williams, selected by the Cavaliers with the No. 45 pick in the 1985 draft, spent nine seasons in Cleveland. He helped the Cavs reach the playoffs seven times. In all, Williams played 661 games with the Cavs, averaging 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 blocks. He ranks top 10 in multiple franchise statistical categories. Williams passed away in 2015.
Additional honorees will be considered for induction to the Wall of Honor on a yearly basis.
Get Cavs Insider texts in your phone from Chris Fedor: Cut through the clutter of social media and communicate directly with one of the NBA’s best beat reporters — just like you would with your friends. It’s just $3.99 a month, which works out to about 13 cents a day. Learn more and sign up here.
- Cleveland Cavaliers Scribbles: Be patient with Collin Sexton -- Terry Pluto
- Cleveland Cavaliers can’t spoil Manu Ginobili Night, lose to San Antonio Spurs 116-110: Chris Fedor’s instant analysis
- Cleveland Cavaliers and the challenge of accepting a harsh new reality as LeBron James returns
- Cleveland Cavaliers honor Kyle Korver in return with Utah Jazz: ‘I didn’t expect anything’
- Cleveland Cavaliers better off without JR Smith: Chris Fedor
- Cleveland Cavaliers can’t complete second-half rally, lose to Portland Trail Blazers 123-110: Chris Fedor’s instant analysis
- Trump supporters share photo of Phoenix rally crowds — except it's actually the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship parade
- Rodney Hood, Alec Burks struggle in first game back in Salt Lake City since getting traded to Cleveland Cavaliers
- Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert jabs at LeBron James in Tweet congratulating Mark Cuban