Don Nelson and Chris Mullin Snubbed By Basketball HOF! Fact or Fiction?

Julian QuisquaterContributor IApril 7, 2009

1989:  Chris Mullin #17 of the Golden State Warriors looks on the court during an NBA game in the 1989-90 season. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by: Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

The politics of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction committee have always rooted me with a deep sense of curiosity and suspicion. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why some people get in, some don’t, and why the number of inductees arbitrarily varies from year to year.


The 2009 class saw five members inducted (Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan, John Stockton, and Vivian Stringer), which left little room for Warriors legends Don Nelson and Chris Mullin to slip in.


However, there aren’t a set number of inductees each year, as 2008 saw seven members inducted to the Hall (Adrian Dantley, William Davidson, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Pat Riley, Cathy Rush, and Dick Vitale).


So why snub the Dubs?


Let’s start with Nellie.


Ironically, the biggest knock on Nellie’s annual bid is that despite his massive win total, he has never won an NBA championship.


Then riddle me this, why include Jerry Sloan because neither has he?


The answer, my friends, lies in the numbers. Nelson’s boisterous reputation may precede him, but HOF voters look at stats not street cred.


Here are Don Nelson’s coaching stats over 30 seasons:


Wins—1,308; Losses—1,003; Win Percentage—.566

Playoff Wins—75; Playoff Losses—91; Playoff Win Percentage—.452


Here are Jerry Sloan’s coaching stats over 24 seasons:


Wins—1,136; Losses—747; Win Percentage—.603

Playoff Wins—93; Playoff Losses—94; Playoff Win Percentage—.497


The best way I can describe Don Nelson is Joe Paterno, BUT with a mediocre winning percentage. He’s been around forever, but he’s not actually that great of a coach.


Yes, Nelson has 172 more wins than Jerry Sloan, but when you compare their career winning percentages, Sloan trumps Nellie by .037. That may not seem like much, but over a 30 year career it breaks down to about a 91 game win difference.


Nellie also isn’t doing himself any favors by tearing apart a Warriors team that looked primed for a revival only two seasons ago. Playoff wins continue to elude him, and the likelihood of ever securing a championship is far from favorable.


Dear Nellie,


It is with regret that I must inform you that due to the high volume of qualified applicants, we are unable to take any further action on your application. We greatly appreciate your interest in seeking admission to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and encourage you to research both the merits of quality versus quantity, and the difference between a coach and a general manager.




The Jerry Sloan Fan Club


And now­—Chris Mullin


As much as I love Chris Mullin, would you ever even bother to argue the validity of including him in a conversation of basketball greats alongside Michael Jordan? Uh-uh.


It’s almost unfair to Mullin, because the argument gravitates away from “does Mullin belong in the HOF,” to “does Mullin deserve to be inducted during the same year as Michael Jordan?” The answer to the first question is maybe, the answer to the second is a resounding no.


Here are Chris Mullin’s career averages:













Here are Michael Jordan’s career averages:













These numbers are incomparable as averages, and that’s not even taking into consideration their career totals, where Jordan put up nearly twice what Mullin did in a fewer number of seasons.


Jordan compared to Mullin looks like:


Total seasons: 15 to 16

Total points: 32,292 to 17,911.

Total Rebounds: 6,672 to 4,034

Total Assists: 5,633 to 3,450


You get the idea. The numbers speak for themselves.


Then why include John Stockton and David Robinson?


I have heard an array of arguments both in support and against Mullin’s induction, but Sports Illustrated’s Alexander Wolff's argument puzzles me the most. He simultaneously makes the argument that this year’s inducted class falls just short of being the greatest ever (he thinks it could have been with the addition of Bernard King or Mullin), but also argues against the induction of “good-but-not-great players.”


If this argument were to hold true, Jordan should simply have been inducted in a class on his own, and it would be the greatest class ever.


No Stockton. No Robinson. No Sloan. No Stringer. No Mullin. No King. Just His Airness.


Dear Chris,


It is with regret that I must inform you that due to the fact that you are not Michael Jordan, we are unable to take any further action on your application. We greatly appreciate your interest in seeking admission to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and encourage you to come out of retirement and raise your career averages in RPG, APG, and PPG by about 50 percent. It also couldn’t hurt to win six championships while you’re at it.




Flat Top Haters Anonymous

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