The finalists for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2010 have been announced. As it does every year, the speculation has already begun about who makes the cut and who doesn't.
This year's finalists include a couple of absolute no-brainers and a host of tough calls.
I'm here to sort it all out. Here are the nominees and my thoughts about whether they should become basketball immortals or proverbial bridesmaids. (Sorry, that image would work better if Dennis Rodman were a finalist.)
Scottie Pippen: This is an absolute no-brainer. Pippen is arguably the greatest perimeter defender in NBA history. It's a travesty that he never won a DPOY award.
In his own way, he was as unique as Magic Johnson, the man he famously guarded during the Bulls first championship series: a 6'8" point guard with the wingspan of a 7 footer and the athleticism of an Olympic Decathlete. Seriously. Probably only Jordan, Drexler, and Barkley were as athletic as Pippen in his prime.
Karl Malone: Another no-brainer. He's second on the All-Time scoring list. He was an original Dream Teamer and two-time MVP. So what if he never won a title?
Malone was the first NBA player who looked like he'd popped out of a video game. Nobody who is that freakin' big should look like James Worthy on a fast break. It simply wasn't fair.
Dennis Johnson: This one is a tough call, because he simply doesn't have the regular season stats or credentials to be a no-brainer. However, he was an NBA Finals MVP and hit some of the biggest clutch shots in playoff history. Remember Bird's famous steal in the 1987 ECF. That play doesn't work if DJ doesn't make the amazing layup. I say he's in, two years too late.
Bernard King: Another tough call. King is kind of like Adrian Dantley: a great scorer who wasn't known for much else. You could make the argument that he was better than James Worthy and Bill Bradley, both of whom are in. And he played in New York, which should give him an edge.
However, he never won anything and is remembered mainly as a guy who provided fodder for Larry Bird and the Celtics. He's probably out.
Chris Mullin: Yet another tough call. Mullin was a New York legend even before he entered the NBA. He wasted a few years to alcohol, then came back and averaged 25 ppg for it seems like five or six years. He made a few All-Star teams and lucked his way onto the Dream Team.
But, again, he never won anything, wasn't a great defender and never really distinguished himself as anything other than a more limited, more boring Larry Bird. He'll probably have to wait.
Jamaal Wilkes: This one is interesting. You'd think if he was going to make it, he'd be in already. On the other hand, he might have the "How did we overlook this guy?" factor going on. Once you examine his career and credentials (championships with UCLA, Golden State, and the Lakers), you start to wonder if the only reason he's not already there is that.
Like Dennis Johnson, people find it distasteful to put too many members of the same team (in this case the 80's Lakers) in the Hall of Fame. I say it's a lame reason, and he should be in. His college credentials put him over the top.
Bob Hurley, Don Nelson, Tex Winter, Jerry Buss: I'll be brief here. No to Hurley. Yes to Nelson (how is he not already in?), yes to Winter (the guy was roommates with James Naismith, so I'm told) and no to Buss. I say no to Buss because he's up for inclusion "as a contributor to the game" and I don't want to leave the door open for a future Mark Cuban induction.
Women's Finalists include Cynthia Cooper, Harley Redin, and the All-American Red Heads team: Cooper is a no-brainer. She's the greatest WNBA player of all time, which has to be worth something. I have no idea who Redin is so she's out. The All-American Red Heads are in just because it's so awesome to contemplate.
There are also some International figures, none of whom I have heard of and none of whose names I can't spell, so I will just let P.J. Carlesimo and Donny Nelson fight that one out.
So there you have it.