Hall of Fame?


I’ve read the recent articles on ESPN.com, and I agree. Basketball has a hall of fame, consisting of college and professional personnel (coaches, players, and front office people) from everywhere throughout the globe. International players are lumped in with college coaches, who are lumped in with NBA superstars; all of this creates a messed up system that, somehow, can induct Hubie Brown into the Hall of Fame but still slight Dominique Wilkins and Joe Dumars.

Yes, the NBA needs its own hall of fame.

The NBA, which, by all intents and purposes, is what defines the sport of basketball, has been shut out of the Basketball Hall of Fame in recent years. According to Rob Parker:

In the last eight years, the Basketball Hall of Fame has selected only nine former NBA players while selecting 16 college coaches and a number of other, less prominent basketball figures, many of whom you’ve probably never heard of, including international players, coaches from all levels and women’s players.

This has got to be embarrassing. You’d think that David Stern, the most powerful commissioner in sports, wouldn’t let this kind of thing happen. But, unfortunately, it’s true. I checked the Hall of Fame website to make sure, and it’s tragically true. Let’s go through a list of recent inductees, starting eight years ago, in 1997. Players and coaches who were enshrined based mainly on their ABA/NBA careers are in italics.

1997: Pete Carril, Joan Crawford, Denise Curry, Antonio Diaz-Miguel, Alex English, Don Haskins, Bailey Howell

1998: Larry Bird, Jody Conradt, Alex Hannum, Marques Haynes, Aleksander Nikolic, Arnie Risen, Lenny Wilkens

1999: Wayne Embry, Kevin McHale, Billie Moore, John Thompson, Fred Zollner

2000: Danny Biasone, Robert McAdoo, Charles Newton, Pat Head Summitt, Isiah Thomas, Morgan Wootten

2001: John Chaney, Mike Krzyzewski, Moses Malone

2002: Harlem Globetrotters (team), Larry Brown, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Lute Olson, Drazen Petrovic, Kay Yow

2003: Leon Barmore, Chick Hearn, Meadowlark Lemon, Earl Lloyd, Dino Meneghin, Robert Parish, James Worthy

2004: Jerry Colangelo, Drazen Dalipagic, Clyde Drexler, Bill Sharman, Maurice Stokes, Lynette Woodard

I’m not trying to take anything away from people like Wayne Embry (the first African American NBA general manager,) Danny Biasone (the inventor of the NBA shot clock,) or Chick Hearn (legendary Lakers announcer,) but the Hall of Fame should be for the players, first and foremost, and it should be for the greatest players of each generation. I’m sorry, but the players who are inducted based on their college careers were never the greatest player of their generation. Same with the coaches, who are popping up in handfuls every year – it seems that every single coach who’s won a NCAA national title or has coached more than 500 games is being inducted. They all belong in the College Basketball Hall of Fame (there isn’t one.) Drazen Petrovic, Aleksander Nikolic, and Drazen Dalipagic, who could very well have been the best international players of all time, shouldn’t be competing with Dominique and Dumars for hall of fame spots – they’re simply not at the same level. Those guys belong in the International Basketball Hall of Fame (there isn’t one.)

Baseball has it right. There are very few managers or general managers, and no college or minor league personnel, in the Baseball Hall of Fame because they know that the sport revolves around the professional players first and foremost. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is exactly the same – NFL players hold the highest court. Could you imagine if Kurt Warner was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame because of his NFL Europe career, or if Mike Kelly (who? Exactly!) was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame because he was one of the greatest college baseball players of all time.

Simply put, the NBA needs to do what it can to stop embarrassments like this – like having some no name women’s player and some unremarkable college coach push great professional players out. Dominique Wilkins is the ninth all-time leading scorer! Joe Dumars is the only person to win the NBA Championship as a player (twice) and as a general manager! Bernard King, Maurice cheeks, Adrian Dantley, Dennis Johnson, Chet Walker – these are all great former NBA players. These are players who were light years ahead of some of the people being inducted nowadays.

The NBA needs its own hall – or at least it needs a Professional Basketball Hall of Fame – and it needs to start soon. What kind of resistance will players like Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, even Scottie Pippen, face when it’s their turn to be inducted? Will they even be inducted? If Dominique Wilkins and Joe Dumars can’t make it, do they really have any hope?

This was lovingly handwritten on April 6th, 2005