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Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the Active Players Who Are NBA Hall of Fame Locks

Joseph FafinskiCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2011

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the Active Players Who Are NBA Hall of Fame Locks

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    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

    The Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Springfield, Mass., recognizes the world's best ballers by vote as other sports do.

    So the question has been lingering in my mind: which current NBA players have the best shot to make it to enshrinement?

    I'll take a look at all the locks, probables, maybes and the ones who are too young to tell, but will have their shot in the upcoming years.

    Additionally, I used rookie photos for every player—and it was funny to see some of the hairstyles these guys sported when they were freshmen of the NBA.

    With all that in mind, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!

    (Author's Note: Allen Iverson, while active, is not on an NBA roster, therefore making him ineligible. However, the Answer would be a lock if he were currently in the league.)

Lock No. 1: Ray Allen

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: 10-time All-Star, NBA Champion, two-time All-NBA Team

    Ray Allen, undoubtedly the best outside shooter of the last 15 years, should be a shoe-in when the voters call.

    His 45 percent career field-goal percentage doesn't do the former UConn Huskie justice—especially when considering that almost half his shots have been from beyond the arc.

    Surprisingly, his best season came four years ago after turning 30, when he averaged 26 points, four rebounds and four assists per game in his final season with the Seattle Supersonics.

    At 35, with an NBA record of most three-pointers made and a ring, Ray Allen is a lock to make it to Springfield.

Lock No. 2: Kobe Bryant

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    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: Five-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, 2008 NBA MVP, 13-time All-Star, 12-time All-NBA Team, eight-time Defensive Team, four-time All-Star Game MVP

    If Kobe Bryant is left out of the Hall of Fame, I suggest we drug test each and every one of the voters and assume they are all doping.

    Do I even need to write a case for Kobe?

    Well, let's put it this way: He's a five-time NBA champion, sixth on the NBA's all-time scoring list and is still just 32 years old.

Lock No. 3: Tim Duncan

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    Tom Hauck/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: Four-time NBA Champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA MVP, 13-time All-Star, 13-time All-NBA Team, eight-time Defensive Team, 1998 Rookie of the Year

    The greatest power forward in the history of the game, Tim Duncan is one of those few players who actually let his playing do all the talking for him. People have long complained about Duncan's boring swagger, but when you average 21.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over a career, there should be no doubters.

    "The Big Fundamental" undoubtedly will be a top 15 player when all is said and done; just look at those accomplishments listed above.

    That last line alone makes him a first-ballot selection into Massachusetts' finest.

Lock No. 4: Kevin Garnett

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: NBA Champion, 2004 NBA MVP, 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, 14-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA Team, eight-time Defensive Team

    While Tim Duncan is the best power forward of all time, Kevin Garnett may as well be the best defensive power forward of all time.

    He has been selected to the All-Defensive First Team eight times and twice more to the second team.

    The time Garnett was with my beloved Minnesota Timberwolves for 12 seasons could have been the greatest years of my life because I was treated to a winning basketball team.

    Although I am still a little disappointed he left, I am still thankful he won a title in Boston and there will be no chance he is left off any Hall-of-Fame voter's ballot.

Lock No. 5: LeBron James

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: Two-time NBA MVP, 2004 Rookie of the Year, seven-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA Team, two-time Defensive Team, two-time All-Star Game MVP

    At just 26 years old, LeBron James is by far the youngest lock on this list. For some reason, I just can't go against him on the argument.

    He has averaged less than 27 points per game just once, and that was during his rookie season. 

    He also has a career average of seven in both assists and rebounds—a phenomenal accomplishment for anyone, let alone a small forward.

    Even without a title, the King is still a check for the Hall. Once he wins it though (that's right, I said once) he will be considered one of the best ever, regardless of position.

Lock No. 6: Jason Kidd

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: 1995 Rookie of the Year, 10-time All-Star, four-time Defensive Team, six-time All-NBA Team

    Jason Kidd might just be the second-best point guard of all time. 

    From the time he came out of Cal 17 years ago, Kidd has been producing. His career average of 9.2 assists is amazingly consistent, considering he has never averaged less than seven or more than 10.

    One thing people forget about Kidd is that he is a fabulous rebounder and is third in NBA history in triple-doubles.

    His best year was in 2003, when he averaged 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the New Jersey Nets.

    Although he has started to decline in recent years, Kidd is still very productive at 37 and routinely averages nine points and nine assists per game.

    I don't believe he needs much of a case here, as he has already done it himself.

Lock No. 7: Steve Nash

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: Two-time NBA MVP, seven-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA Team

    It's hard to tell who has had the more impressive career between Jason Kidd and Steve Nash, and I ultimately can't decide between them.

    Nash's two MVPs might set the two apart, but if not, no one can doubt Nash's fabulous passing and smooth touch. Even at the tender age of 37, he is averaging 18 points and 11 assists for an otherwise mediocre Phoenix Suns franchise.

    Aside from being a great player, Nash is also known around the league as being one of the nicest characters and a great teammate.

    Will this guy ever decline?

    Springfield doesn't think so—even if he doesn't play great defense.

Lock No. 8: Dirk Nowitzki

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: 2007 NBA MVP, 10-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA Team

    It's time to recognize the best European to ever play basketball on American soil.

    Dirk Nowitzki has long been a mainstay among the league's best and even in his early 30s, he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.

    One of the best shooters of this generation, Dirk has undoubtedly changed the power forward position, along with Kevin Garnett. His 22.9 career scoring average ranks among the NBA's great and so does his 38 percent clip from downtown.

    The German may need a title to concrete his status in the Hall, but I think he's already placed his footsteps there.

Lock No. 9: Shaquille O'Neal

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    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: Four-time NBA Champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, 2000 NBA MVP, 15-time All-Star, 1993 Rookie of the Year, two-time NBA Scoring Leader, 14-time All-Team, three-time Defensive Team, three-time All-Star Game MVP

    When the years pass and Shaquille O'Neal is inducted into the Hall of Fame, fans will wonder who are the greatest centers ever. 

    Other than Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell, who has had a better career than "The Diesel?" He has a 24.1 career scoring average to go with 11 rebounds and an amazing 2.3 blocks per game. Most importantly, he has four titles.

    Some say Shaq might be the last great center (and to those non-believers I say watch out for the other Superman, Dwight Howard).

    "Shaq" is a universally known term and every time I used to play pickup ball in the days of my youth, I would do my best impression of the big fella and say something stupid in a low-sounding voice.

    That's how much Shaq has meant to the basketball world and for that, he is a lock.

Lock No. 10: Paul Pierce

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: NBA Champion, 2008 NBA Finals MVP, nine-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA Team

    Paul Pierce is one of the greatest Boston Celtics ever—and that is saying something, considering the history the franchise has seen throughout its years. Pierce already tops their scoring list and at 33, he might have five more seasons to go.

    In his illustrious career, "The Truth" has never averaged less than 16 points in a season and last season's 4.4 rebounding clip was the worst of his career by far.

    He has already made his three-point skills known, being a member of the NBA's all-time top 10 list and having a 37 percent career number.

    The thing that sealed the deal for me was when Pierce was named NBA Finals MVP of a team that also had guys like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen on the court.

Probable No. 1: Chauncey Billups

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: 2004 NBA Finals MVP, five-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA Team, two-time All-Defensive Team

    Chauncey Billups might be one of the best players ever to switch uniforms six times.

    Currently a member of the New York Knicks, Billups' best years came during his tenure in Detroit, where he won an NBA Finals MVP and was a mainstay among the league's best.

    The only negative toward Billups' game was that he didn't average the highest assist numbers, despite having tremendous supporting casts, especially in Detroit. In fact, his career high was just 8.6—something Chris Paul has surpassed five times in six seasons.

    The gritty, hard-nosed Billups was and still is a good defender and even at 34, he isn't especially past his prime yet.

    Time will tell when (and if) he will become a lock for the Hall.

Probable No. 2: Vince Carter

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    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: 1999 Rookie of the Year, eight-time All-Star, two-time NBA All-Team

    It's hard to believe that Vince Carter is still in this league but at age 34, he is still leading the Phoenix Suns in scoring.

    Back in his prime, Carter would routinely average more than 24 points per game, but in recent history, he has seemingly fallen off the map.

    Known as a premier dunker and scorer, if Carter (like Tracy McGrady) had a few better seasons, he'd be a lock for the Hall—but for now, we wait.

Probable No. 3: Tracy McGrady

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: Seven-time All-Star, two-time NBA Scoring Leader, seven-time All-NBA Team

    Tracy McGrady was perhaps the NBA's most dynamic scorer in the early half of the 2000s. He could take it to the hole or drain a 22-footer.

    His best season came in 2002-03, when he averaged an incredible 32.1 points per game for the Orlando Magic. He also averaged 6.5 rebounds and dished out 5.5 assists.

    The knock on McGrady is that he was "only" dominant for about six years or so, ultimately making him just a probable for Springfield.

Probable No. 4: Dwyane Wade

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: Seven-time All-Star, Scoring Leader, five-time All-NBA Team, 2006 NBA Finals MVP

    Dwyane Wade has just about everything you need in a Hall of Fame resume—except longevity.

    He's got a ring, an NBA Finals MVP (a great accomplishment considering Shaquille O'Neal was in his prime on that team) and three All-Defensive team selections to go with it.

    One thing that sets Wade apart from other guards is his ability to take over games with his scoring, passing and most impressively, his rebounding. At just 6'3", Wade's career average of five boards per contest is spectacular.

    Not to mention that he has averaged better than 25 points per game throughout his career.

    If "Flash", a Marquette University graduate, finds himself playing until he's 33 or 34 (he is currently 29), he will be a lock for the Hall.

Probable No. 5: Ben Wallace

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Career Highlights: Four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, five-time All-NBA Team, NBA Champion

    Ben Wallace, while never averaging more than nine points per game in a season, has still put together a resume that acknowledges the best defensive player since Dennis Rodman.

    He won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award four times throughout his illustrious career and even as an undersized center at 6'9", he still led the league in rebounding with 15.4 boards per game. No one in this league has recorded a number since, although Kevin Love has a great shot to do so in 2011.

    At 36, Wallace is in his second stint with the Pistons, but is obviously way past his prime, failing to make a great contribution to the mediocre ball club.

    I've made a case for Rodman, so I might as well make the same for Wallace.

Maybes

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Carmelo Anthony: He must win an NBA title to prove himself as one of the best because he is so one-dimensional.

    Grant Hill: The longevity of his career has been noted and even after 17 seasons in the league, injury has pushed Hill's status on this list to a "maybe."

    Shawn Marion: "The Matrix" had quite the run in Phoenix and his dominance there might get him the nod when the years pass by.

    Amar'e Stoudemire: He needs to up his rebounding numbers if he wants to find himself enshrined in Springfield.

The Future Looks Bright

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Kevin Durant: At just 22, Durant is probably the league's best hope to break the all-time scoring record and our generation's best scorer might be a lock within the next five years.

    Dwight Howard: Give him about three more years of consistent play and he should be at least a probable, if not a lock.

    Chris Paul: The league's best passer knows that if he keeps it up, his name will be on the ballot when he retires.

    Rajon Rondo: At just 24 and playing with a seemingly endless plethora of superstars, Rondo is making his name known and his tremendous passing and defense are being noted by fans everywhere. 

    Derrick Rose: Already the Bulls' best point guard in franchise history, a likely MVP award from this year will push the 22-year-old in the right direction.

    Deron Williams: The former Fighting Illini may need to up his resume in New Jersey if he wants a shot to stand with the best.

     

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Joseph Fafinski is a 19-year-old, originally from Chaska, Minn.

    He is currently a freshman at the University of Missouri pursuing a career in journalism.

    He is a huge fan of basketball, football, baseball and golf, and is a Featured Columnist on Bleacher Report for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He also loves the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Twins.

    You can follow Joseph on Twitter at @JosephFafinski.

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