Each year the members of the All Native Basketball Society board choose individuals that have stood out in the crowd, helping organize, playing and just simply doing everything they can for the week-long tournament.
This year, five more people have been added to the list.
The first newly added Hall of Famer was Nelson Leeson who was a Hereditary Chief and long-time President of the Nisga’a Nation before he passed away in 2009. Leeson was a powerhouse during the time he played in the All Native Tournament.
“He was a great player, a truly great player in his era. He was well known in the basketball community, both at the All Native Basketball Tournament and in basketball around the province,” said brother Dick Lesson, who joined him on the Hall of Fame this year, as well.
Richard Lesson said that he is honoured to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time as his brother Nelson. The two were hard to beat when they came together on a team.
Although he won many awards for his playing in the ANBT, he was never actually able to win the championship.
“I’m thrilled about the whole thing. I played a lot of basketball and it’s great to be recognized,” said Lesson.
Gayle Bedard was the next to be induced into the Hall of Fame and is the second woman ever to join the list. Bedard said that her hope is to one day see more female players added to the list.
During her years on the court, she won a number of championships and individual awards, including MVP as a member of the 1996 Eagle Wind championship team. After her lengthy career in the ANBT, Bedard said it’s a honour to be inducted.
“I am very humbled by the induction. There are a lot of good ball players out there, so you can’t help but be humbled when you get the news about the Hall of Fame,” she said.
The fourth inducted Hall of Famer was Mel Bishop, who has been playing ball since he was a child, and enjoyed it through college and even professionally in the last 70’s. Bishop has been the coach of the Rainmakers for the past 31 years. He said that proud of the number of past and present Rainmakers who have played All Native Basketball over the years, and joked during his speech at the Hall of Fame ceremony that he must be an old guy with many of the players he once coached now in the Masters and Seniors divisions.
The last person to be inducted into the Hall of Fame was Art Sterritt. Sterritt has done it all over the past 45 years in the ANBT. He was on the board, being the chair of the tournament when the women’s and masters division were introduced and also played for many
Sterritt said that it is humbling to be added to the Hall of Fame.
“In the category they are asking me to be in there are some pretty spectacular people – people who started the tournament and made it what is it like Alan Hall, Johnny Clifton and Russell Gamble. To sit amongst that type of company is really humbling,” he said.