Most-Deserving Candidates Still Not in NBA Hall of Fame
Bernard King finally got the legendary gorilla off his back, but the same cannot be said for everyone who had hopes of being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Admittedly, deciphering between who belongs in the hall and who doesn't is a precarious task. Fear of unjustly excluding deserving persons, coupled with the possibility of glorifying the wrong player over another one, makes for a sensitive issue.
But, at least for now, we shouldn't be about berating the league for past or current selections. Instead, as King and Gary Payton, among others, prepare to be immortalized as NBA aficionados, it's a time to reflect.
On what exactly?
The players who are worthy of such an honor but have yet to receive it. Those who may have been snubbed, but mostly, who we appreciate enough to believe that they deserve a spot amongst the Association's best.
A spot that they'll hopefully, one day, receive.
Current Age: 63
Years Pro (ABA included): 13
Teams: Denver Rockets (ABA), Seattle Super Sonics, New York Knicks, New Orleans Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Bullets
Career Per-Game Stats: 20.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.1 blocks on 46.9 percent shooting
Even if you don't agree that Spencer Haywood deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, you can't help but feel for the guy.
According to Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, someone from the NBA told Haywood he had been selected with this year's class, when in fact, he wasn't.
"This isn’t a punch in the stomach," he said. "It’s below the stomach.”
Indeed it might be.
During his 13-year career (one year in the ABA), Haywood developed a reputation for his ferocious rebounding and soft touch around the basket on offense. He was also selected to five All-Star Games.
Taking into account his one ABA campaign, Haywood stands as one of only nine players to have averaged at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and one block per game for his career. The other eight include current Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes and Bob Lanier, and inevitable inductees in Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan.
Knowing he put himself in company like that, there's a strong case to made for Haywood as a should-be Hall of Famer.
Stronger than strong, actually.
Current Age: 48
Years Pro: 17
Teams: New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets
Career Per-Game Stats: 9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.1 blocks on 44.7 percent shooting
Some will disagree, but the present head coach of the Golden State Warriors deserves to be in the hall.
Mark Jackson's career numbers aren't flashy by conventional standards, yet they still speak for themselves.
Not only is Jackson third on the all-time assists leaderboard, but he's one of just six players in NBA history to have retired with averages of at least nine points, three rebounds, eight assists and one steal per game. That puts him right alongside Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and Oscar Robertson.
Once again, his numbers weren't as flamboyant as theirs but when put into this context, Jackson was able to distinguish himself in a way not even John Stockton (also a member) did. That takes skill. Great skill.
Hall of Fame-worthy skill.
Current Age: 53
Years Pro: 13
Teams: Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers
Career Per-Game Stats: 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks on 48.4 percent shooting
I'm not going to lie, I'm (unpleasantly) surprised that Mark Aguirre hasn't made it into the Hall of Fame just yet.
Aguirre had a span of six seasons in which he averaged at least 20 points per game, and he scored his way to three All-Star selections, the latter of which seems low for a point-totaler of his caliber.
The essential tweener also won two championships with the Detroit Pistons and was in the top 15 of MVP award shares three times.
Aquirre is one of just 14 players to have retired with averages of at least 20 points, five rebounds and three assists on 48 percent shooting, as well. Of his 13 comrades, 12 have been selected into the Hall of Fame.
Cases can easily be made against Aguirre, but the numbers and his place amongst some of the greats speak for themselves, too.
And they're saying a whole lot more in favor of him than we could ever say against.
Current Age: 65
Years Pro: 13
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Bullets
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.4 blocks on 48.4 percent shooting
Bob Dandridge is another on this list who can be depicted as one of the most underrated players in the history of the game.
The small forward was selected to four All-Star games and won championships with two different franchises, both of which he was a pivotal part of. He averaged at least 19 points per game in each of those two postseasons.
Known mostly for his ability to put the ball through the hoop, Dandridge was a nice facilitator and rebounder as well.
At present, he's one of just 15 retired players to have walked away with an average of at least 18 points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal per game. Of the other 14 players, 13 of them have been selected to the Hall of Fame.
Championships, All-Star selections and Hall of Fame-esque statistics, what more could Dandridge have done?
Nothing. Or rather, close to nothing.
He belongs in the Hall. End of story.
Current Age: 57
Years Pro: 14
Teams: Seattle Supersonics and Milwaukee Bucks
Career Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks on 46.4 percent shooting
Why isn't Jack Sikma in the Hall of Fame?
That's a question I really can't answer.
Sikma was one of the most versatile big men to ever grace the hardwood. He shot threes before there were actually threes, and when the deep ball was implemented, he continued to shoot them.
The big man is one of just 19 players standing at 6'11" or taller to shoot (minimum 100 career attempts) better than 32.5 percent from beyond the arc. He's also 10th in three-point attempts amongst all players who are at least 6'11".
To me, his absence is perplexing. Sikma was a seven-time All-Star, won a championship with the Seattle Supersonics in 1979 and is one of just six players in NBA history to total at least 15,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, 1,000 steals and 1,000 blocks.
Who do his colleagues include?
Current Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and inevitable inductee Kevin Garnett.
Get this man in the Hall.
Current Age: 47
Years Pro: 14
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers
Career Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.3 blocks on 45.5 percent shooting
Mitch Richmond's Hall of Fame case is thwarted by having made the playoffs just once with the Sacramento Kings. That said, his six All-Star selections (five appearances), should more than make up for that. He also snagged a title with the Lakers in 2002 before he retired.
The shooting guard was one of the best scorers the NBA has seen. He is one of just 38 players in NBA history to have eclipsed 20,000 points for his career and is one of just two retired players to have averaged at least 20 points and one steal per game while shooting better than 38 percent from deep for his career.
The other, you ask?
Pete Maravich, a Hall of Famer himself.
Not that this matters (except it does), but Richmond is also one of just three (retired) players to have exceeded 20,000 points and not be elected into the Hall (yet).
Strike that, he's essentially the only one. Allen Iverson and Shaquille O'Neal are the other two, and neither are eligible because they've yet to be retired for a full five years.
I won't come out and say Richmond's absence is a travesty right now, but if he isn't inevitably inducted one of these years, I most definitely will.
Current Age: 46
Years Pro: 13
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers
Career Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.1 blocks on 43.1 percent shooting
I'm pretty hell-bent on this one happening eventually. Tim Hardaway remains one of the most underrated players in NBA history.
While he continues to be recognized for his three-point prowess (35.5 percent for his career), we often neglect to acknowledge how deft a playmaker he was. His 7,095 career assists are the 14th most of all time.
I often liken Hardaway to a more potent Chauncey Billups. I feel compelled to emphasize "more potent," because I don't want anyone to mistake my comparison as a Hall of Fame case for Billups.
Hardaway (like Billups), had a knack for making huge shots. Just ask the New York Knicks. He was the original Mr. Big Shot (sorry, Chauncey) in a sense.
The five-time All-Star also remains one of just five players in league history to have averaged 17 points, eights assists and 1.5 steals per game for his career. Chris Paul (active) is one, Kevin Johnson is another and Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas are the others.
Worthy of an eventual induction?