The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has already enshrined many of the greatest players, coaches and contributors in the history of the sport, but 12 more deserving candidates were put in position to potentially join that elite group Saturday.
Finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2015 were announced, and there is no question a strong case can be made for all of them to be immortalized in Springfield, Massachusetts, forever.
The NBA's official Twitter account revealed the 12 finalists Saturday:
(1 of 2) 2015 @HoopHall finalists: Leta Andrews, Dick Bavetta, @UKCoachCalipari, Bill Fitch, Tim Hardaway, Spencer Haywood, Robert Hughes...2015-2-14 15:25:15
... (2 of 2) 2015 @HoopHall finalists continued: @KJ_MayorJohnson, @LisaLeslie, @officialmutombo, Bo Ryan & Jo Jo White!2015-2-14 15:25:25
In addition to that, here is a more comprehensive listing of those who will have an opportunity to enter the Hall of Fame in 2015:
|Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2015 Finalists|
|Leta Andrews||Coach||Granbury High School|
|John Calipari||Coach||Kentucky, UMass, Memphis|
|Bill Fitch||Coach||CLE, BOS, HOU, NJ, LAC|
|Tim Hardaway||PG||GS, MIA, DAL, DEN, IND|
|Spencer Haywood||PF||SEA, NY, NO, LAL, WAS|
|Robert Hughes||Coach||Paul Laurence Dunbar High School|
|Kevin Johnson||PG||CLE, PHO|
|Lisa Leslie||C||Los Angeles Sparks|
|Dikembe Mutombo||C||DEN, ATL, PHI, NJ, NY, HOU|
|Bo Ryan||Coach||Wisconsin, Milwaukee|
|Jo Jo White||PG||BOS, GS, KC|
Also, five people were elected directly into the Hall of Fame Saturday, according to Matt Dollinger of SI.com:
Matt Dollinger @matt_dollinger
John Isaacs, Tom Heinsohn, Louis Dampier, Lindsay Gaze and George Raveling named direct elects to Basketball Hall of Fame.2015-2-14 15:07:40
The finalists will now go through a rigorous selection process, and those who receive at least 18 votes from the Honors Committee will ultimately be inducted into the prestigious Basketball Hall of Fame come September, according to HoopHall.com.
Until that happens, though, every finalist deserves to celebrate the incredible accomplishment of being considered for such an immense honor.
On the heels of the finalist announcement, here is a look at a few candidates who figure to make a very strong case for induction.
Analyzing Top Candidates
Few players in the history of the NBA have been more fearsome on the defensive end than 7'2" center Dikembe Mutombo.
The Republic of the Congo native spent 18 seasons in the league, earning eight All-Star nods and being named NBA Defensive Player of the Year on four different occasions. He ranks 20th on the all-time rebounding list with 12,359 and second all-time in blocks with an astounding 3,289.
Mutombo trails only the legendary Hakeem Olajuwon in the latter category, which is why he believes he is deserving of a Hall of Fame induction, according to CBSSports.com.
"If you can see my name just below one of the great basketball players to ever play for this league, for me to come this close to breaking his record, I don't see why I cannot be on the same bus with him," Mutombo said. "That's how I look at it."
Mutombo nearly averaged a double-double over the course of his career with averages of 9.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game to go along with nearly three blocks per contest. He also shot nearly 52 percent from the field, and he is part of a fairly exclusive club, per Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post:
Jason Lieser @JasonLieser
The list of men who have done 20+p, 20+r & shot 90+%: Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Dikembe Mutombo, Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside.2015-2-5 16:15:42
Add in Mutombo's collegiate career at Georgetown as well as the remarkable humanitarian work he has done, and there is no question he is Hall of Fame worthy both as a player and a person.
Mutombo is the only first-timer to make it this far in the voting process this year, and it is difficult to imagine him falling short of an induction.
One year after being snubbed from a Hall of Fame induction, longtime NBA guard Tim Hardaway will have another opportunity to be enshrined in 2015.
The diminutive star spent 13 years in the NBA, and he made quite an impact. He averaged nearly 18 points and eight assists per game over the course of his career while knocking down almost two trifectas per contest as well.
Hardaway had a great run with the Miami Heat, but it can be argued that his greatest success came early in his career with the Golden State Warriors. He, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin formed one of the most exciting offensive trios in basketball as "Run TMC."
Richmond joined Mullin in the Hall of Fame last year, but Hardaway didn't get the nod. What he did receive, though, was a great deal of praise during Richmond's acceptance speech, according to Jack Flagler of MassLive.com.
He was barely six feet tall, 190 pounds of muscle, determination, and strong opinions, always overflowing with confidence. He certainly didn't act like a rookie, his name was Tim Hardaway. ... He was a natural born leader. The minute he arrived, he went around the court like he owned it. Run TMC was born and man did we have some fun, and some success.
It would have been sweet for Richmond and Hardaway to go in together, but it may ultimately be worth the wait if Hardaway gets chosen this year.
Last year proved there are no guarantees, but there is no question Hardaway boasts a resume deserving of a Hall of Fame selection.
Much like Hardaway, Kevin Johnson was on the verge of being inducted into the Hall of Fame last year. He was a finalist with a great case to earn the honor, but he ultimately fell just short of being enshrined.
The mayor of Sacramento, California, will get another crack at it in 2015, and his chances seem pretty strong considering his track record.
Johnson was a three-time All-Star who had a spectacular run with the Phoenix Suns. Over the course of his career, he averaged nearly 18 points and nine assists per game. He is 18th on the all-time list with 6,711 dimes, and there is no question he measures up to many of the point guards who have already been inducted.
Bud Geracie of Bay Area News Group was among those who were shocked when Johnson didn't make the cut last year:
Bud Geracie @WakeOfWeek
I love @mitchrichmond23, but in the Hall of Fame before Kevin Johnson? #NBA2014-4-3 02:30:24
Despite the snub, Johnson didn't show any signs of disappointment, per Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:
Ailene Voisin @ailene_voisin
Sac Mayor Kevin Johnson seems unfazed by Hall of Fame exclusion. "No comment," he said. Then smiled and added, "I'm fine."2014-4-3 03:21:21
Johnson likely knew his time would come eventually, and that time may very well be now, as he looks like one of the strongest candidates among the current crop of finalists.
He was among the most underappreciated players of his era, but he is now in line to receive the recognition he so richly deserves.
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