Basketball Hall of Fame--Who's In? (Recent Retirees)
I have been thinking about putting a Hall article out since early summer, but got sidetracked with the World Championships. I felt like this was good time since this is the last days of the slow period for basketball. What follows is a list of players of recent vintage who have retired in the last few years and are debatable candidates in my mind.
Don't forget were dealing with the Basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall-o-Fame. People tend to overlook this when they talk about candidates. There are many college coaches, women coaches (Summit), contributors (Dave Gavitt), women players (Cheryl Miller, Ann Meyers) and foreign players & coaches inducted in Springfield.
This can open up a whole can of worms for the committee with evaluating NBA players. What do you do with guys who had legendary college careers but had solid NBA careers at best? (see Laettner) What do you do with foreign players who come over to play in the NBA? Alot of the time these foreign players have had solid NBA careers, but if they stayed over in Europe they would have been legendary & possible Hall candidates like Kresmir Cosic or Dino Meneghin (see Divac). An even tougher case is what to do with a guy like Detlef Schrempf (who played his whole college career & some of high school in the US) ? See these are some of the problems that crop up when you don't just have an NBA-only Hall of Fame.
So, a guy like Bill Walton can get in on the combination of his college & pro days, so why can't Laettner? And college coaches seemingly can get in if they just coach long enough. You can see the issues that can cause some inconsistency with Hall of Fame inductions. Hopefully, someday we can establish a separate NBA Hall-o-Fame and hopefully they will find anywhere but Springfield to put it in. Here's the list of recent retirees soon to be Hall eligible:
NO-BRAINERS: Ewing, Jordan, Malone, Olajuwon, Pippen, Robinson, & Stockton.
BORDERLINE CASES (American players who had great NBA careers, but not quite legendary):
Reggie Miller-- Although there seems to be a consensus that Reg is no doubt in the Hall, I say not so fast. To me, he is a borderline case. Probably the best outside shooter of his era (but does being the best at a specific skill put you in the Hall?). Great playoff performer--6 East. Conf. finals apperance, 1 finals appearance--always clutch in the playoffs (see Knick game). But his stats are not amazing--18.2 ppg, 3rpg, 3apg--puts him on the same line as Hardaway, Richmond, K. Johnson, and Mullin. Was one of the better 2-guards of his era, but was he any better than Richmond? Miller did not do much more than shoot & score. There has to be debate with Reg's case, he just can't have his ticket automatically punched like Jordan or Stockton. His resume is solid but not amazing: 5 all-star selections; 3 all-nba (3-3rd); Olympic gold & World Champ. Gold. His 18 seasons (1389 games) with one team will be looked highly upon by Hall voters. Although, it does not mean quite as much to me. And his career shooting % of 47% & a super 39.5% from 3pt. are helpful to his case.
Should he get in: Like I said before, I am on the fence with Reg and right now I am dangling to "yes side" of the fence. I think guys like Mullin & Richmond are just as worthy and were both better overall players than Reg. But his post season play is an enticing factor.
Will he get in: Right now I would say yes. 18 years with the same team, the state of Indiana loves him, good all-around guy. And his playoff performances are very memorable (Those Knick games clips will be played forever). Don't underrate the fact that he has a national TV gig either, that helps keep his face out there--Reg definitely has the best PR of any of these candidates.
Mitch Richmond--Had the unfortunate luck of being stuck in Sacto when they constantly stunk. Was not on TV very much and to most people outside of Arco Arena, Richmond was an afterthought. 6 all-star selections; 5 all-nba (3-2nd, 2-3rd); '89 rookie of year; 21ppg, 4 rpg., 3.5apg. 1 NBA ring (token on Lakers). Olympic gold & bronze. 10 straight years of averaging at least 22 ppg. Only 23 playoff games. Was always considered underrated during his playing days & is still to this day. Was one of the top 2-guards of his era. To me, he was a better all-around 2-guard than Miller, he just does not have the post-season success.
Should he get in: I think if you put Reg in, you have to put Mitch in.
Will he get in: I am not really sure, I think his lack of exposure could really hurt him. Does not have the PR that Reg has built over the years.
Tim Hardaway-- One of the top PGs of his era. Super-strong point who used his compact build well to be a post-up threat. He also was the owner of one the sickest dribble-crossovers of all-time. Not much separated him from GP in the 90s. Known for hitting big time shots. Resume: 5 all-star selections.; 5 all-nba (1-1st, 3-2nd, 1-3rd); 17.7ppg, 8.2apg, & 3.3 rpg. His scoring & even rebounding numbers are very close to Reg's, although the shooting % tilt in Reg's favor. Also, the post-season success gives Reg an advantage. But Tim Bug made a few more all-nba teams and a few 2nd teams, while Reg only got 3 3rd teams.
Should he get in: He's definitely on the fence with me, I waver back-n-forth.
Will he get in: Not sure. Although, I think if you put Reg or Kevin Johnson in, you should put Tim Bug in.
Chris Mullin--Another highly underrated player. Some might say he was the poor man's version of Larry Bird. Had one of the sweetest strokes of all-time, great passer. One of the top college players of the 80s, which is a plus for his case. '85 NCAA Co-player-o-year with Ewing. 2 gold medals. 5 years of averaging at least 25 ppg. 5-time all-star, 4 all-nba (1-1st; 2-2nd, 1-3rd). Tailed off quickly when he hit his 30s. Career numbers--18.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.5 apg (51%, 38.4% from deep). I think he has to be in for his combined college & pro performance. Could he get in a NBA-only Hall? Borderline. But with his college performance he's in the overall Basketball Hall.
Should he get in: Yes, his college play & 2 gold medals put him over the top in my mind.
Will he get in: Matters how much the committee takes into effect his college & int'l play.
Kevin Johnson-- Some of you probably forgot about KJ, I know I did when making a cursory list of hall-o-fame prospects. I totally forgot about him, and this could possibly hurt his chances. Not because I overlooked him, it's just he was a player that you have to be reminded how good he really was outside the Valley of the Sun. Maybe it's an subconscious East Coast bias that I have, who knows, but Johnson never really made a huge impression on me during the 90s. 3 all-star selections; 5 all-nba (4-2nd, 1 3rd); 17.9ppg, 9.1rpg, 3.3apg. (49%, 30.5%)--numbers nearly identical to Hardaway, besides the shooting %. But did he play long enough-- only 735 games. 1 finals appearance. 105 playoff games (19.3, 9 apg, 3.3 rpg)
Should he get in: After looking at the numbers, whatever way Hardaway goes, so goes Kevin Johnson--they are pretty equal to me.
Will he get in: I have a feeling he will get in before Hardaway because the Hall voters will be enamoured with his great guy rep & his community work, any type of Hall-o-Fame loves that, but if you put him in you better put Tim Bug in or you lose validity as a Hall.
FOREIGN FACTORS (Foreign players who played a significant chunk of their career in the NBA):
Vlade Divac--One of the 1st Euros to enter the league & one of the early handful of the first wave (late 80s) Euro invasion players to have an impact in the NBA. 2 World Champ golds, 2 Olympic silvers. One of the best passing big men of all-time. Played most of his pro career in the states, but does have an accomplished resume of int'l competitions' success, which definitely helps. He was also somewhat of a goodwill ambassador for the game.
Should he get in: I think so, with his trailblazing status, solid NBA career & many int'l tourney accomplishments, he's in line with a guy like Petrovic.
Will he get in: Not sure. Because most of his professional career was played in the NBA, which was solid but not Hall worthy by itself. But since Petrovic is in, I have to believe Vlade will get in.
Toni Kukoc--Will just consider him retired for this piece. Similar to Divac. But with 3 NBA champs. under his belt & was a key cog on all those great Bulls' teams. World Champ. gold, 2 Olympic silvers, 1 World Champ. bronze. Also, 3 Euro club championships, & 3-time Euro player of the year. NBA 6th-man of year in 1994. Great outside shooter who combined that with great passing skills.
Should he get in: Yes
Will he get in: Pretty confident he will. All his titles around the world & individual awards should seal the deal.
Arvydas Sabonis--Personally, one of my favorite players of all-time & one of the best centers of all-time anywhere. Devastating ankle & knee injuries slowed him down in the early 90s. 4-time Euro player of the year, 1 Euro club champ. 1 Olympic gold, 2 Olympic bronze, 1 World Champ silver. 12ppg, 7.3rpg , & 2.1apg in only 24 mins per in NBA. One of the bigger "What-ifs" in sports history--if he came here in his prime & was not crippled below the waist--he could have been a Hall-o-Famer straight-up with his play in the NBA, no foreign factor needed. Was the best passing big man of all-time, sorry Bill. Please do yourself a favor and watch his old clips on YouTube.
Should he get in: You know how I feel on this. Absolutely.
Will he get in: If he does not in the next 15 years, I will personally go to Springfield to start a riot. And that says alot, because no one should be forced to enter the city limits of Springfield any longer than necessary.
Sarunas Marciulionis-- Another "foreign factor" possibility. 7 NBA seasons--12.8 ppg, 2rpg , & 2apg. 50.5% overall, 37% from deep. Definitely underrated NBA career. With Divac & Drazen, one of the few successful players from the 1st wave of Euros in the late 80s. 1 Olympic gold, 2 Olympic bronze, 1 World Champ silver. Was a precursor to Manu's aggressive driving style. Very good NBA bench player--2-time runner-up for the 6th-man award.
Should he get in: Not sure about him--was not as dominant as Sabonis or Kukoc oversees.
Will he get in: No idea. But could be helped by his trailblazing ways (like Divac & Petrovic) & his off-court work.
Detlef Schrempf--Longshot, but could have the whole "foreign factor" working. 2-time 6th-man of the year. 3-time all-star, 1 all-nba 3rd team. 14 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1 finals appearance. Nevertheless, highly underrated player. Little different Euro--played college & some high school in US, so maybe interpreted differently. Does not have much in the way of int'l awards like the other listed Euros, so that could hurt his case.
Should he get in: I just don't know. He is a very tricky case for making the Hall.
Will he get in: Don't think so, even though I think he is vastly underrated. But he's definitely in a very grey area. How do categorize him? He was in many ways an American player who happened to be born in Germany, you know what I mean. This is where the Hall has made it hard on itself by inducting foreign players & coaches. Maybe I need to think about Rik Smits now as well.
BIG GUYS WHEN ON CAMPUS (Guys with sterling college careers, but without Hall-o-Fame level NBA careers):
Christian Laettner-- Some people might be surprised with this choice-but could be a similar case to Bill Walton. One of the best college players of all-time & the best of the 90s, & the best player in college the last 20 years. Solid pro career. 1 token Olympic gold, 1 World Champ. bronze. '92 NCAA player of the year. 4 Final Fours, 3 NCAA Finals appearances, 2 crowns. Played huge every year in the NCAA tourney. Walton's overall pro career numbers were not much better than Laettner's (the rebounds & block shots were definitely in Bill's favor). To me, Walton's overall NBA career was not Hall-o-Fame caliber by itself--I would not put Bill into a NBA-only Hall if one existed. Walton did not even play 500 career games, to me, that's not long enough of a sample size--you should play at least around 520 games to even qualify as having a long enough NBA career to evaluate for the Hall. What definitely helps Walton was his '78 MVP & his 2 rings, '77 finals MVP & 86 6th-man award, but 76-77 & 77-78 were his only great years. Laettner had one all-star selection to 2 for Bill. Was Walton a better college player than Christian? Yeah, few were better. But Laettner is not far behind.
Should he get in: A very hard case, but I think he should get in because his college career was just too good, and his pro career pretty solid. As I noted before, he's not that far behind Walton in my mind. I guess if you put all those college coaches in, some who don't have as many titles as Laettner, why not him. Also, the American women are only getting put in on mostly their college play, why can't Laettner.
Will he get in: I don't think so. Right now, Walton is the only player in the Hall who you can compare his situation with, but Bill has the slight advantage of two NBA rings & a MVP trophy.
Danny Manning--Probably another easily forgotten Hall prospect. Somewhat similar to Laettner. One of the better college players of all-time. '88 MVP & NCAA title. Literally, one-man gang in '88. I think his leading of Kansas to an upset of conference foe Oklahoma was on par with Nova over G'town. Maybe even more impressive considering he had nothing besides current Portland GM Kevin Pritchard around him, but this game gets nowhere near the attention of the '85 title. Also, one of the top 3 players in the land in 86-87 with D. Robinson & S. Alford. Was one of the top 5 players in the 80s of college b-ball with Isiah, R. Sampson, Jordan, & Ewing. as far as I am concerned. Injuries stymied his NBA effectiveness, similar to Walton. His NBA numbers are solid--14 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.3 apg in 883 games over 15 seasons. One 6th-man of the year award. Laettner probably has a small advantage because of his extra NCAA title & 3 NCAA finals appearances.
Should he get in: I put Laettner in, so maybe Manning should get in, but not ready right now to put him in. The extra title & '90 finals appearance puts Laettner higher in the pecking order.
Will he get in: Can't see it happening.
Ralph Sampson--Again, injuries ripped short a promising career. Somewhat similar to Walton--Ralph played 456 total games, Bill played 468. Ralph had about 2-3 hall-of-fame caliber years like Bill, then was seriously derailed by injuries. '84 rookie of the year, 4 all-star selections, 1 all-nba, 1 finals appearance. Similar career stats to Bill--15.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, & 2.3 apg. One of the most dominant college players of all-time, one of the best players of the 80s. But what hurts Ralph is he has no titles in the pros or college. Also, has had some rough times off the court and just recently ran into some legal troubles, which could hurt the slim chance he previously had.
Should he get in: The lack of titles put him below Laettner, but maybe closer to Manning.
Will he get in: I can't see it, especially with the off-court issues.
THE WILD CARD:
Dennis Rodman--If some people make the case for Ben Wallace, Rodman has to be considered. Look at his resume: 5 rings; 7.3 ppg & 13.1 rpg; 2-time all-star; 2-time Def. player of the year; All-defensive team--7-time 1st team, 1 2nd team; 7-time reb. leader; 2-time 3rd all-nba. Pretty impressive. Also, an underrated passer. One of the best role players of all-time. But not much in the way of offense. Obviously his personality is a big knock against him.
Should he get in: His resume is very impressive, although I wish he was more varied on offense. I don't care about his off-court issues, I am leaning toward putting him in--his resume is excellent in my opinion.
Will he get in: I doubt anytime soon. I really think the committee will try to avoid Dennis for as long as they can. But if they ever decide to put Ben Wallace in, Rodman must go in as well.