In the recorded history of mankind, no one may ever have had as positive an experience operating a vacuum cleaner as Louie Dampier did Feb. 14.
Preparing for a family trip to Florida, Dampier was cleaning while his wife, Judy, and her sister were out shopping.
Dampier's son, Nick, text ed Judy. Tell Dad congratulations, the text read.
For what? she texted back.
Going into the Basketball Hall of Fame, came the reply.
"When my wife and her sister got home, they looked really happy," Dampier said Friday. "I turned off the vacuum, and they told me the news. That's how I found out I was going into the Basketball Hall of Fame."
For many in Kentucky, the word that the American Basketball Association Committee had directly elected Dampier to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame elicited one response: What took so long?
Dampier was first a star (19.7 points a game career scorer) for Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky. Then, he was the franchise cornerstone for the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA. A 6-foot guard with as sweet a jump shot as basketball has ever seen, Dampier is the ABA's all-time career leader in points (13,726), three-pointers (794), assists (4,044) and games (728).
He is still wrapping his head around the idea of becoming a Basketball Hall of Famer. "Right now, I'm kind of overwhelmed," he said.
The enshrinement ceremony will be Sept. 11 in Springfield, Mass. Asked if he has decided who will be his Hall of Fame presenter, Dampier said "I haven't told him yet — but you can probably guess."
"Yes," Dampier said of his former Colonels teammate.
Picking UK over IU
Born in Indianapolis, Dampier grew up dreaming of playing college hoops for the Indiana Hoosiers.
By the time he'd become a star at Southport High School, a University of Kentucky talent scout, Neil Reed, persuaded Adolph Rupp to venture north to watch a skinny little guard with an uncannily accurate jumper.
Rupp watched Dampier for only one half, then left.
"In the first half, I think I hit nine of 10 shots, or something like that," Dampier said. "I guess they had seen enough. Kentucky offered me a scholarship."
Yet to try to make Dampier's childhood dream of playing at IU come true, the player's godfather and namesake, Louie Weiland, was working connections at Indiana.
He took Dampier to Bloomington to meet with Branch McCracken, the IU head coach. McCracken told Dampier to tour Indiana's basketball facilities, then closed his office door to meet with Weiland.
"I wound up sitting in the receptionist area for like 20 minutes," Dampier recalled. "Finally, Coach McCracken opened the door and said 'You have a scholarship to Indiana if you want it.'"
Dampier felt like Indiana had been "talked into" offering him. He chose UK instead. "Best decision I ever made," he says.
By his junior year, Dampier had become the shooting star on the Kentucky team nicknamed Rupp's Runts because it had no starter taller than 6-6. That season, UK (27-2) came within a loss to Texas Western in the 1966 NCAA finals of giving Rupp the fifth NCAA championship the old coach so coveted but never got.
"It's not a good memory since we lost," Dampier said. "But that championship game is certainly one of the biggest memories of my time at UK."
A happier Kentucky Wildcats moment came from earlier in 1966. On Feb. 2, No. 2 Kentucky went to Nashville to face No. 4 Vanderbilt. In an era when only conference regular-season champions made the NCAA Tournament, the UK-Vandy meeting was expected to decide who got the SEC's bid.
Dampier lit up the Music City, hitting 18 of 29 shots and scoring 42 points. "It was one of those nights where you felt like any (shot) that came off your hand was going in," Dampier said. "And that was such a big game. There's no question, that's my best UK memory."
Picking ABA over NBA
Drafted in the fourth round of the 1967 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings), Dampier instead took a flyer on the newly launched ABA. He signed with the Louisville-based Colonels, and played all nine years of the ABA's existence with Kentucky.
The free-wheeling ABA gave the world the red, white and blue basketball and the three-point shot. "Little Louie" became a staple of the new league. He averaged 24.8 points a game in his second season (1968-69) and 26 points in his third.
Once the Colonels added the 6-9 Issel and 7-2 Artis Gilmore, the big men became the focus of the team's offense. Dampier made the transition to more of a playmaking role. In 1974-75, he averaged 16.8 points and 5.4 assists as the Colonels won the ABA championship for the only time.
"That was the highlight," Dampier said. "That's the only championship I ever won, high school, college or pros."
After the 1975-76 season, the NBA absorbed four ABA teams. Even though they had been one of the ABA's marquee franchises, the Colonels were not one of the chosen. A past-his-prime Dampier spent three seasons in the NBA as a reserve with the San Antonio Spurs.
As the years passed, Dampier said he never expected to get a call from the hall. After all, his best years had been spent with a team that is now defunct that played in a league that no longer exists.
Then, on Valentine's Day, a 70-year-old grandfather of five had his vacuuming interrupted by his very happy wife.
"It's a very good feeling," soon-to-be Basketball Hall of Famer Louie Dampier said. "I'm excited."