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But it was his efforts on the hardwood which were acknowledged at the New Zealand Basketball Awards in Wellington last night.
Macdonald was inducted into Basketball New Zealand’s Hall of Fame for his services as a player.
Macdonald, who grew up in Palmerston and lives in Dunedin, was a dynamic point guard for Otago and New Plymouth.
He was selected for the New Zealand team in 1969 as an 18-year-old and remained a key member of the side through to 1981.
Macdonald captained the national team in 1973, 1975 and again in 1978 when he was the leading scorer in a three-game series against Australia. New Zealand secured its maiden win against Australia during the series. Macdonald turned down a basketball scholarship offer from North Western University in Chicago in 1972, choosing instead to focus on his law degree at the University of Otago. He retired from international basketball in 1981 because of family and work commitments.
His silky skills prompted the National Basketball League to name the most outstanding guard award after him. And Macdonald was elected as patron of Basketball New Zealand in 2012.
But he could have easily have followed his father, Enoka Macdonald, into rugby. Enoka played for Otago and New Zealand Maori but John was forced to choose between rugby and basketball while at Otago Boys’ High School. He chose that latter.
"For basketball all you needed was a basketball and a hoop and you could play for hours," he said.
"If another person came along you could have a competition. But basketball appealed because of the cold climate and you could do so much on your own.‘‘And it meant I didn’t have to go to those cold nights at rugby training and play on a frozen ground."
Others to be inducted into the Hall of Fame were players Gina Farmer, Sean Marks, Leone Patterson, Megan Compain and Frank Baldwin, officials Robin Milligan and Bruce McCormack, administrator Graeme Davey and coach Keith Mair.Previous hall of famers Stan Hill, Zena Gay, Sir Lance Cross and Carolyn Grey were bumped up to ‘legends of basketball’, a category reserved for those whose service is worthy of the highest honour.
In the night’s other awards, Jillian Harmon was named most valuable player for 2016.
The power forward helped the Tall Ferns to their first win over eventual silver medallist Spain during the Olympic qualification campaign, and had standout performances against France and Cuba when she scored more than 20 points in each game.
Tall Fern Stella Beck was named female player of the year. She is playing NCAA Division 1 basketball on scholarship for Saint Mary’s College in San Francisco and led the West Coast Conference in field goal percentage for the second consecutive season.
Isaac Fotu picked up the male player of the year award. The 23-year-old has cemented his reputation as one of the most important players in the Tall Blacks. And he has been a useful performer for Zaragoza in the tough Spanish league, averaging 7.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and shooting at over 50% from the field.