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Slam Dunk of a Decision

July 5, 2012 By:
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Good sports -- great sports! -- all: New inductees into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (from left) are Richard Cohen, Buzz Bissinger, Glenn Fine, Lisa Hoffstein; Stephen H. Frishberg, Hall board chair; Phil Kendall, accepting on behalf of the late George Katz; Rich Yankowitz; Al Shrier, board member; Lewis Katz (behind Al), Pillar of Achievement recipient; Fred Shabel; and Michael Barkann, emcee and Hall of Fame member.

Philadelphia lawyer or San Antonio warrior?

In the jump ball that is life and careers, Glenn Fine of Melrose Park saw it as no contest when it came to choosing between a career amid the legal courts or on the basketball court.

Ultimately he chose law: "At 5 foot 9, I didn't think I had much of a future in the NBA."

But the San Antonio Spurs did draft the 1979 Harvard College magna cum laude grad and college basketball co-captain upon graduation, seeing something in the admittedly long shot for a pro player.

But so did Oxford University, which Fine opted to attend instead, winning a Rhodes Scholarship and earning two degrees there.

All of which made Fine -- a former inspector general at the United States Department of Justice -- a slam dunk as a choice for the new class of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Fine was inducted along with seven other greats in recent ceremonies held at the Gershman Y, where the Hall of Fame/Rose Levis Museum is housed.

Joining him at the 15th anniversary event were Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Buzz Bissinger, who switched on a nation of fans to Friday Night Lights on the page and on TV and is now also a Philadelphia radio broadcaster; tennis titan Dr. Richard Cohen, a psychiatrist and neurologist; Lisa Hoffstein, a University of Pennsylvania tennis legend and founder of Katie at the Bat Team; late boxing manager George Katz; Comcast-Spectacor longtime exec Fred Shabel, a former Duke University basketball player; and Rich Yankowitz, high school B-ball coach with the best record of any ever to helm a team in the Philadelphia Public League.

Publisher Lewis Katz, team tycoon in a league of his own -- he once owned basketball's New Jersey Nets and hockey's New Jersey Devils -- was saluted as the Pillar of Achievement honoree.

Also given a special tip of the sports cap: The 2011 JCC Maccabi Games Team Philadelphia Graduating Athletes.

Fine, now a partner with Dechert LLP, an international law firm founded in Philadelphia nearly 40 years ago, works out of the Washington office, a natural spot for someone whose career was rooted so long in the Department of Justice.

As well as the issue of social justice -- values he says he picked up from his family growing up in Melrose Park; indeed, Morton, Fine's father, also served in the Department of Justice as an anti-trust attorney for some 30 years.

"Having a career in public service," with a family history steeped in it as well, "has always been important to me," says Fine.

But surely basketball also had its appeal; after all, the Spurs did draft him. "Tenth round," he points out.

The ball just didn't bounce his way. "I never envisioned myself a player" while a student at Cheltenham High, where, he recalls, "I received a great education."

Fine says he was surprised at his selection as an inductee into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, where he joins such past members of the pantheon as the Phillies' Ruben Amaro Jr., Ed and Steve Sabol, founders of NFL Films; and Ed Snider of Sixers and Flyers fame.

"It's quite an honor," he says. After all, "Philadelphia has a rich tradition of sports history."

At 56, the married father of two teen daughters is not apt to pick apart his decision to travel to Oxford rather than San Antonio so long ago.

"No regrets," he says, noting that he's disavowed pick-up games as well. At his age, he says, it's easier to get hurt.

But coming up short in the Spurs draft never bothered this giant amid the legal minds of Washington. Although the game of politics in Washington did take its toll.

After all, Fine once told a House committee, "Before I started this job as the IG, I was 6-9."

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