The NBA has been highly effective with their HOF selections. Numbers matter. Popularity helps. Consistency is key. Championships are a plus. 142 players in 50+ years. It's a tough place to get into (as it should be), and it would be difficult to question the inclusion of anyone who has already been selected. The voting process works very well. There are separate Screening Committees for American Contributors, International Contributors, Females, and Veterans. First, the 7 members of each Screening Committee vote; 5 must say yes (i.e. 71%). Selected players advance to the next vote, where a rotating Committee of 24 voters is created from the four screening groups. If 18 of the 24 vote yes, the candidate is in (i.e. 75%).
In my humble opinion as a fan and student of the game, these are the current players and coaches (American Contributors) that will be selected for this highest honor:
LOCKS (100%, and if you vote ‘no' you deserve to have your right to vote revoked):
Shaquille O'Neal - The most dominant big man of his generation. MVP. Rookie of the Year. 3-time Finals MVP. 4-time Champion. 15-time All-Star. 8-time All-NBA First Team. World-class personality. 5th on the all-time scoring list, likely to be surpassed only by Kobe and LeBron. Top-5 on almost every other big man-related career list.
Kobe Bryant - The best shooting guard since MJ. A dynamic scorer, tenacious defender, and 5-time Champion. Extremely popular despite the rape allegations, he was the face of the league for nearly a decade.
Tim Duncan - The greatest power forward of his generation. 2-time MVP. Rookie of the Year. 3-time Finals MVP. 4-time Champion. 13-time All-Star. 9-time All-NBA First Team. Mr. Consistency. Anyone who loves the game loves what Tim Duncan brings to it.
Steve Nash - The PG of his generation. 2-time MVP. All-time leader in FT percentage. Top-10 in 3-pt percentage and he'll retire as Top-10 in 3-pt made. Top-10 in all career assist categories, including total and per game. It cannot be held against him that the style of play dictated by his coaches, and in which he excelled, never delivered a championship. Nash is an all-time tough competitor. It would be fantastic if his bust reflected the "busted eye" Nash that played so magnificently in 2010.
Kevin Garnett - MVP. Defensive Player of the Year. Champion. 14-time All-Star. 4-time All-NBA First Team. 8-time All-NBA Defensive First Team. Most intense player ever. He is immensely popular, ridiculously competitive, and one of the most recognizable players in the league. Combine that with his career totals in points, rebounds, blocks, and assists (for a PF), and you have a certified HOF.
LeBron James - When he retires he will probably own every major career scoring record. His first eight seasons in the league are equal to anyone's first eight. He's a dynamic scorer and a proficient defensive player. Yes, it may hurt his image that he had to "team up" in order to (possibly) win a championship, but in the end, numbers count, and his numbers will be some of the best. For the longest time the NBA, with help from the Cavs franchise and Nike, attempted to build him into a mythical hero (ala MJ), and though he single-handedly tore down that work during his free-agent summer, it doesn't hurt him that his marketing machine is on par with MJ and Tiger Woods for most successful of all-time. If he retired today, he'd probably be a HOFer, for whatever that's worth.
NEAR-LOCKS (97% there, but some fools could vote ‘no'):
Reggie Miller - He'll get selected in 2011. His game speaks for itself (2nd all-time for 3-pt made) and he is a classic name in the history of the sport. I hope Spike Lee attends his induction ceremony so Miller can choke him out.
Dwayne Wade - He has the numbers. He got his championship (and may add more). He is the face of a franchise. He is a spokesperson for the NBA. He seems like a very nice guy. He is one of the rare players bred by the league for entry into the HOF. Guys may score more points, win more championships, and grab more awards, but there is limitless value for being selected by David Stern to be a spokesperson for the league. Wade is one of the few who would have to screw up royally or retire immediately (like today) to lose consideration for the HOF. My only hesitancy in not putting him in the 100% lock category is that he won't end up with the career numbers of the best of the best, and he may retire with only one championship. Here's hoping he stays healthy for another 8 years.
Dirk Nowitski - One of the greatest offensive machines in NBA history. His offensive numbers put him in HOF company; he'll finish somewhere between Hakeem Olajuwon and John Havlicek in career points and somewhere around Charles Barkley in points per game. He'll also end up with a healthy amount of rebounds and a solid, if not spectacular, career FG percentage. No championship, no problem. Not everyone can win, and in his case I don't think it will reflect poorly upon him. Plus, he'll be one of the rare international imports in the actual NBA players' section of the HOF.
Jason Kidd - One of the most proficient assist men in NBA history (currently #2 all-time), Kidd will likely be known, like John Stockton before him, for never winning a championship. But it cannot be argued that he wasn't a consistent asset to every team he played for, and he will remain #2 on the all-time assists list for some time, as Steve Nash is the only active player within 4,000 assists, and Nash is as old as Kidd. Of course, Mark Jackson is third on the all-time assists list and he's not in the HOF. Kidd has always been a bit underappreciated, but I think he'll get his due.
Paul Pierce - He'll finish his career somewhere north of 25,000 career points, which puts him in the Top-15 all-time. Regardless of his scoring prowess, he would be further down this list if it weren't for his maturation and success during the Big-3 era in Boston. As each of the Celtics has said numerous times, "you have to win Championships to be a true Boston Celtic." All true Celtics are in the HOF (except Reggie Lewis, for he will always be a true Celtic and was on his way to the HOF before a heart condition cut short his career and life!) The Truth is a true Celtic.
Ray Allen - I don't know how anyone could vote against the NBA all-time leader in made 3-pointers, but I'm sure someone will. He's no guaranteed 100% lock, but it would be shocking if he's left out. He's praised time and again for having the most beautiful jump shot in NBA history.
Allen Iverson - Will the final years of his career overshadow the phenomenal beginning and consistent ceiling that made him one of the most feared and popular players of all-time? He single-handedly carried the 76ers to the 2001 Finals, and believed he could again, but never did. He led the league in scoring four times, which is more than anyone not named MJ during the past 30 years. His career scoring average is 6th all-time and his playoff scoring average is 2nd all-time (behind only MJ). By 2005, he was probably a lock, as one of the most prolific scoring guards of all-time, but his selfishness, reckless physicality, and defensive deficiencies exploded into the foreground as he aged. Is it fair to judge Iverson for his off-court words and actions (he wasn't the brightest bulb and believed practice was unnecessary)? Is it fair to hold his selfishness against him when it meant so much to his game (he took a lot of shots and only hit at a 43% clip)? No and no. He'll make it, but he won't get 100% of the vote.
FUTURE LOCKS (51% there, steady as she goes):
Chris Paul - He's a very impressive player with great yearly statistics, and he is one of the most efficient offensive/defensive players in the league. There's a good chance he'll win a championship in his career, probably after switching teams in free agency. If he continues on his current path for an additional 8-10 years, he may not need a championship or MVP to get selected. He's that good, and everyone knows it.
ON THEIR WAY (37.5% there, don't derail):
Dwight Howard - Ok, he may actually be 49% there, but the final 51% is much harder to attain. He's known for his defense and his enormous man-child size, but he lacks the offensive repertoire of Hakeem the Dream, the pure power of Shaq, and the NBA IQ and proficiency of Tim Duncan. Championships will be hard to come by until a proper team is built around him; it's evident he cannot do it alone (it's no longer a center's league). If fans voted, he'd be in already, but he has so much more to prove before the true voters will put him in. Being a spokesperson for the league is a bonus in his case.
AN OUTSIDE SHOT (20% there, with ground to cover):
Kevin Durant - He certainly can score, but can he up the rest of his game to become a legitimate MVP-candidate each year? More importantly, can he truly embody the title of face of his franchise, leader of his team, and go-to master? In the best case scenario, Durant's career will shadow Duncan's: both men are talented, smart, quiet, and competitive. Durant never had a Robinson to learn from, but he has a solid team and great organization, so a championship may be in his future. There have been a number of exciting Durant-like players that never achieved the consistency and longevity of a HOF: Shawn Kemp, Glen Rice, Allen Houston, Tracy McGrady. But Durant seems different.
Derrick Rose - He's popular. He's good. But can he become great and stay great for a long time? Can the Bulls give him the correct supporting cast? He may be on his way to his first MVP award this season.
Rajon Rondo - You don't get into the HOF for being exciting or having limitless potential (both of which Rondo has). You get into the HOF for consistent exciting play and surpassing your potential (neither of which Rondo has). I fear the worst for Rondo when the Big-3 eventually retire. Can he lead younger players? Can he mesh with a different superstar? Can he expand his game offensively? Will his defense suffer dreadfully after losing Garnett (and possibly Perkins)? Certainly, he will not earn entry into the HOF based off his first 6 or 7 years playing with the Big-3, no matter how many assists or championships he totals. It will be what he does afterwards that strengthens or breaks his case.
Amar'e Stoudemire - I don't see it happening, even with his prolific offensive numbers, unless he brings at least two championships to the NY Knicks (may need more now that Carmelo is stealing some spotlight). Too much of what he did in his career was entirely dependent on Steve Nash, and Amar'e is no Scottie Pippen to Steve Nash's Michael Jordan.
Manu Ginóbili - Even with all the championships, his numbers aren't impressive enough to earn entry into the HOF. He'll have to settle for making it into the Argentinean Sports HOF.
GOOD, BUT NOT... (12% there, but not likely to make it):
Tony Parker - There have been many championship-winning PGs like him that haven't earned consideration. He's the third-best player on his team, and that doesn't get you into the HOF...unless you're on the Lakers or the Celtics.
Pau Gasol - He's a slightly better Toni Kukoč. He'll retire with championship rings, but he won't have the numbers to warrant serious consideration.
Rasheed Wallace - He's actually retired already, so we'll know he missed the cut in four instead of five years.
Deron Williams / Brandon Roy - A lot of it has to do with whom you play with, and a PG like Rondo is lucky to play with four future HOFers and a series of talented role players. Guys like Williams and Roy exert a lot of energy carrying their teams and covering for their teammates' deficiencies; increases with Williams now in NJ. They succeed more often than not, but unless they step up their game even further, or are lucky enough to be joined by other superstars, they won't last long enough and tally enough career numbers to warrant consideration. Chris Paul is leap years ahead of these two in terms of efficiency and marketability (it matters). If Williams heads to the Knicks and wins a few championships, he may climb the list. If Roy returns from injury and excels for another decade, he may climb the list. Neither of those situations is likely to happen.
Carmelo Anthony - Bulk scorers do not make it into the HOF unless they excel in other facets of the game, be it consistency, showmanship, flash, pizzazz, defense, leadership, etc. Carmelo offers none of those additional elements. He's a bulk scorer and that's it. That's why it's ridiculous to consider mortgaging your team's future (Knicks) to bring him into the fold; he won't add anything but scoring and he won't make you a contender. He also won't make the HOF.
Carlos Boozer - Injury-prone. He won't stay healthy long enough to put up the kind of numbers needed.
Vince Carter - Hell no!
Baron Davis - Pass. No explanation necessary.
YOUNG-ENS (5% there, but a long way to go):
Blake Griffin - If one great year got you into the HOF, you'd see busts for Vince Carter and Vin Baker in the HOF. Alas, it takes a career. Let's give young Mr. Griffin a chance to expand his game beyond NBA Jam-style highlights and see if he can develop into an all-around player and leader. One fact that is for certain is that he has to leave the LA Clippers if he expects any reasonable shot of getting into the HOF, as only three players in history who have logged significant minutes for the franchise are currently enshrined, and none of them actually played in LA - Dantley & McAdoo (Buffalo Braves), Bill Walton (San Diego Clippers). Blake was born after all three of them retired.
Kevin Love - Keep up the 20/20s and we'll talk. He may be known as Moses Malone-lite, but Moses finished his career with extraordinary numbers and three MVP awards.
Andrew Bogut - He needs to get his scoring up and maintain his rebounding, but he has an outside chance of putting up solid career numbers, if he stays healthy.
Al Horford - If he improves into a consistent double-double man, and becomes the focal point of his team for a stretch of years, then he may stand a shot.
THANKS, BUT... (so close, but never quite made it):
Alonzo Mourning - His eligibility arrives in three years, and I won't argue if he is inducted. He was definitely a player's player: tough, competitive, team-oriented. He could score, and did, but he was better known for his defense. He's 10th all-time in blocks and has one of the best per game averages in history, but Mark Eaton is 4th all-time and has by far the best per game average, and Mark Eaton is not a HOFer. Mourning? My gut says...possibly.
Mark Jackson - He's a finalist on the 2011 list, so he may find himself inducted soon. He's third all-time in assists and, though he will be passed by Steve Nash and possibly a few younger PGs, he deserves consideration but not inclusion. Assists aren't everything and his other numbers don't hold up. If there were a Hall of Very Good, then he would be a shoe-in, but he's not a HOFer.
Dikembe Mutombo - Hall of Very Good...and Intimidating. He was a joy to watch on the defensive end, and his humanitarian efforts are highly respectable, but he wasn't a great-enough player on the court to warrant selection.
Dennis Rodman - He's 21st on the all-time career rebounding list and 10th all-time on the career rebounds-per-game list. For a man known primarily, almost solely, for rebounding, I expect more. Though he's up there with the best of the best, he is not a HOFer; his numbers don't support it. If he gets in it will be because he rides the coattails of Jordan and Pippen.
Grant Hill - He was a future lock at one point, branded by the NBA as the heir apparent to MJ, but injuries derailed the train. It's too bad; he's fun to watch and oh-so-smart.
Bernard King - Up for selection again this season, he has failed to gain entry into the HOF since 2004. He's not likely to make it. Much like Mark Jackson, he belongs in the Hall of Very Good.
Chris Mullin - Also on this year's selection list, Mullin was a hustling, bustling scorer with a tenacious drive, but he's not a HOFer. Sorry to say because I loved watching him play.
Chris Webber - He almost retired as a 20/10 guy (ppg/rpg), but even that doesn't warrant his selection.
Don Nelson (currently: retired, 30+ years experience) - The all-time leader in coaching victories, and not likely to be surpassed. He has his own brand of ball - Nellie Ball. True, it never led to a championship, but it did lead to the creation of the Hack-a Shaq approach (initially created to deal with Dennis Rodman). In 1996, he was selected as one of the top-10 coaches in NBA history, alongside eight HOFs and Bill Fitch, who retired with a career losing record. He's the only one not to have won a championship, but he's the leader in the group for Coach of the Year awards (3 - tied with Pat Riley). He's a finalist this year, but it's a shame he's not already in the HOF.
George Karl (currently: Denver Nuggets, 25+ years experience) - He's seventh all-time on the career coaching wins list and defeated numerous cancer scares in the past few years (we all know that overcoming obstacles assists your campaign). He's beloved by other coaches and NBA vets (but no Carmelo). He's an eventual lock.
Greg Popovich - (currently: San Antonio Spurs, 15+ years experience) - He's led the Spurs to four championships and may add a few more before he (most likely) joins Tim Duncan in retirement land. He has a terrific playoff winning percentage (.631 - Phil Jackson's .717 being the best all-time). He has an outside shot at 1,000 victories (currently at 780). He is highly respected by everyone in the league.
And here is my update from directly after this year's class was announced:
The 2011 NBA Hall of Fame Class has been announced. Two of the invitees are players that I placed in my “THANKS, BUT… (so close, but never quite made it)” category.
Dennis Rodman and Chris Mullin.
Here is what I wrote about each player just a few short months ago:
Dennis Rodman – He’s 21st on the all-time career rebounding list and 10th all-time on the career rebounds-per-game list. For a man known primarily, almost solely, for rebounding, I expect more. Though he’s up there with the best of the best, he is not a HOFer; his numbers don’t support it. If he gets in it will be because he rides the coattails of Jordan and Pippen.
Chris Mullin – Also on this year’s selection list, Mullin was a hustling, bustling scorer with a tenacious drive, but he’s not a HOFer. Sorry to say because I loved watching him play.
And my take today:
Rodman has slipped to 22nd on the all-time career rebounding list, as Tim Duncan passed him in the past few weeks. He’s still 10th on the career rebounds-per-game list, but he’ll likely be passed by Dwight Howard. That being said, I still do not believe Rodman warrants inclusion in the HOF. As I alluded to in my initial article, he’s riding in on the coattails of Jordan and Pippen and, surprisingly, a long-lost love for the 80s Pistons.
Mullin did everything very well, but nothing truly great. He was only a 5-time All Star. He didn’t score 20,000 points for his career. He didn’t average 20 points over his career. I don’t understand why he was selected, other than name recognition (which I said plays a part). But I didn’t think his name recognition was that great. Now the only member of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team not in the HOF is Christian Laettner, and there will have to be a Presidential Order to get him in.
Those who didn’t make the cut:
Reggie Miller – In a baffling turn of events, a famous player with great career numbers and a hand in some of the game’s greatest moments was overlooked. I had him in my “Near Lock” category and wrote the following a few months back: He’ll get selected in 2011. His game speaks for itself (2nd all-time for 3-pt made) and he is a classic name in the history of the sport. I hope Spike Lee attends his induction ceremony so Miller can choke him out.
Mark Jackson and Bernard King – I had them both on the outside, looking in, so I’m not surprised by their omission.
Don Nelson – What a shame. Perhaps the voters are waiting for him to retire… I don’t know. There is no good reason he isn’t in the HOF.
The entire 2011 NBA HOF Class (and my thoughts on their selection):
Dennis Rodman – see above
Chris Mullin – see above
Artis Gilmore (veteran) – If you include his time in the ABA (American Basketball Association), then he warrants selection. But it begs the question: if he didn’t get in during his first twenty years of eligibility, why now?
Tom Sanders (veteran) – Same question as above. Why now? He’s getting in because he was on 8 championship teams with the likes of Bill Russell and Sam Jones. But he’s 72 years old now.
Tex Winter (coach) – Good choice. He created an offense (the Triangle) that has won 10+ championships.
Tara VanDerveer (coach) – She’s been coaching college ball for over 30 years and has two championships under her belt.
Herb Magee (coach) – He coaches a Division II team, but he has racked up the most victories (907) in the history of NCAA coaching.
Arvydas Sabonis (international player) – Had a stellar International career that didn’t translate to the NBA. Hard for me to judge what he’s done abroad.
Teresa Edwards (female player) – She had a phenomenal collegiate career, but all but missed out on the WNBA. It’s difficult to judge female basketball players, due to the relative newness of their professional league, so I’ll go with whatever the experts say.
Reece “Goose” Tatum (Harlem Globetrotter) – Difficult to judge the merits of a Harlem Globetrotter, but he did invent the ‘Sky Hook’. He also died in 1967, which once again leads to the question above… Why now?
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