25 Modern Era Sports Stars We Would Kick out of the Hall of Fame
Groucho Marx once famously said that he would never want to be a member of a club that would have someone like him as a member.
Hopefully, Reggie Miller feels the same way.
The Basketball Hall of Fame inducted its 2011 class over the weekend. The newest members of the Hall of Fame are Artis Gilmore, Dennis Rodman, Arvydas Sabonis and . . . Chris Mullin?
The selection of Mullin, who averaged 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his 16-season career seasons and played in 71 playoff games is a curious one, especially when one considered the omission of Miller, who averaged 18.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 18 seasons, and played in 144 career playoffs games.
Frankly, the selection of Mullin seems, by most standards, to be an incorrect one.
It would certainly not be the first time something like that happened. Let's have a look at the top 25 modern-era super stars we would pull out of the various Halls of Fame if we could.
But Before We Begin, a Word About Dennis Rodman
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Much of the commentary following the recent Basketball Hall of Fame inductions centered around the general shock and surprise that Dennis Rodman had been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Is it me, or is Dennis Rodman clearly a Hall of Fame caliber player?
This is a guy who is one of the best defensive players in the history of the NBA, and one of the most freakishly gifted athletes in the history of sports. He led the league in rebounding seven straight seasons, which is a record, and at 6'7'' he is the shortest dominant rebounder in basketball history.
And oh by the way, he was a pivotal member of two dynasties, the Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s and the Chicago Bulls of the late 1990s, and won five championships.
So what, exactly, about Rodman that people think disqualifies him from being in the Hall of Fame?
Now on with the show.
25. Rich Gossage, Baseball Hall of Fame
Rich Gossage stands for the proposition that if you have a crazy moustache and complain about how bad modern players are compared to yourself, you eventually get into the Hall of Fame (see also Rollie Fingers).
How Gossage did anything that more Hall-worthy than Mike Marshall, we have no idea.
24. Bruce Sutter, Baseball Hall of Fame
Bruce Sutter enjoyed a 12-year major league career, during which he pitched just over 1,000 innings, posted a 68-71 record, led the National League in saves five times and finished with an ERA below the league average in four out of his 12 years.
What possible basis is there for putting Bruce Sutter into the Hall of Fame that is not present for Reardon, Franco or Smith, not to mention Doug Jones, Jeff Montgomery, Tom Henke or Dan Quisenberry?
23. Chris Mullin, Basketball Hall of Fame
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This pick does not make any sense at all.
Chris Mullin was a very good basketball player for years. He averaged 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists over the course of 16 seasons for Golden State and Indiana.
In a league in which one great player can get a team to the playoffs and two great players can win a championship, Mullin went to the playoffs five times in 13 seasons at Golden State. He went all three years with the Pacers, but by then he was a role-player.
To watch Chris Mullin go into the Hall of Fame and see Bernard King (22.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists) remain on the outside looking in is a touch befuddling.
To say nothing of Reggie Miller.
22. Don Sutton, Baseball Hall of Fame
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Through the age of 40, Don Sutton was a solid major league pitcher; he had a 3.17 ERA (109 ERA-plus), 3,315 strikeouts in 4,796.1 innings pitched, and hurled 174 complete games and 57 shutouts.
Then, in 1986, something changed. Sutton went from a solid major league pitcher to a world-class, all-time great. Overnight, Sutton became one of the greatest pitchers of all time.
What happened in 1986?
Sutton won his 300th game.
And with that, suddenly Sutton was a better pitcher than Billy Pierce, Dizzy Trout, Hippo Vaughn, Carl Mays and Tommy Bridges, all of whom had been significantly better than Sutton when he had only 299 wins.
21. Floyd Little, Football Hall of Fame
I was present at Floyd Little's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A couple of points:
1) I can tell you that it was an exciting, inspirational speech, and that both he and his son, who introduced him, are clearly wonderful people.
2) Halls of Fame are such wonderful, and nearly propagandistic, celebrations of sports and athletes that you can almost get high with emotion and wonder, and by the end of a full day spent at a Hall of Fame, you will be convinced that we all belong.
That said, Floyd Little led the league in rushing yards once, and finished in the top five two other times, on his way to 6,323 rushing yards for his career.
If Little is in, where is George Rogers? Where is Dalton Hilliard? And when is Shaun Alexander going in?
20. Dennis Eckersley, Baseball Hall of Fame
In 1987, Dennis Eckersley got traded to the Oakland A's and, after ten years as a mediocre starting pitcher, moved to the bullpen and became one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.
Eck's period of dominance, however, was brief. He accumulated 390 career saves, a reputable total to be sure, but the dominant part of Eck's career really lasted only from 1988 to 1992. Eck's career numbers—3.50 ERA, 116 ERA-plus, 197-171 record, 2401 strikeouts in 3285.2 innings—are not Hall of Fame caliber in any sense.
The only number of Eckersley's that is arguably Hall of Fame caliber is his 390 saves, which forces us to ask: If 390 saves gets a pitcher into the Hall, why is it that Jeff Reardon (367), John Franco (424) and Lee Smith (478) are still on the outside looking?
19. John Riggins, Pro Football Hall of Fame
John Riggins enjoyed a nice, long career, at the end of which he enjoyed two monster seasons in 1983 and 1984, during which he rushed for 2,500 yards and led the league in touchdowns two years in a row running behind the vaunted "Hogs" offensive line in Washington.
Prior to the 1983 season, Riggins was never an elite NFL rusher, and even in those two seasons he averaged 3.6 and 3.8 yards per carry, respectively.
Riggins had longevity and durability on his side, and from our perspective those are not Hall of Fame attributes.
18. Marcus Allen, Pro Football Hall of Fame
In 1985, his fourth year in the league, Marcus Allen led the NFL in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage and was named an NFL All-Pro for the first time.
Allen spent 12 more seasons in the NFL and never again rushed for more than 1,000 yards; in fact, he never again rushed for 900 yards.
Eventually, Marcus Allen finished his career with 12,243 rushing yards, but on the strength of only 55.1 yards per game.
17. Drazen Petrovic, Basketball Hall of Fame
Let me preface this with a Rest in Peace to Drazen Petrovic, who was tragically taken from us in a car accident at the age of 28, just as his career was getting underway.
That said, Petrovic averaged 15.4 points, 2.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds in his four years in the NBA. He averaged over 20 points per game in his third and fourth seasons, which were encouraging. But at the same time, upon his death Petrovic was not clearly on his way to a Hall of Fame career, and inducting him nonetheless because of the tragedy of his death flies in the face of the Hall of Fame.
And in case we feel differently, note that Reggie Lewis, who died tragically the same summer as Petrovic, was not subsequently inducted into the Hall of Fame despite averaging a 17.6, 4.3 and 2.6.
16. Troy Aikman, Pro Football Hall of Fame
When a quarterback wins three Super Bowls behind one of the greatest offensive lines of all time, with one of the greatest wide receivers of all time and one of the greatest running backs of all time, and a tremendous defense, must we associate those Super Bowl wins to his abilities as a quarterback?
Strike that. Let's try this:
Troy Aikman had a lower career passer rating than Bernie Kosar, Neil O'Donnell and Brad Johnson, and is only slightly ahead of Boomer Esiason and Dave Krieg.
Needless to say, no one is clamoring for the inclusion of those players in the Hall of Fame.
15. Leo Boivin, Hockey Hall of Fame
Blueliners are difficult to appreciate, but Boivin's career is more might than merit.
Boivin is known for the fact that (a) he was short, and (b) he was nevertheless tough.
Other than that, his career resume is lacking.
Of course, as we said, blueliners are difficult to appreciate.
14. Calvin Murphy, Basketball Hall of Fame
Over the course of 1,002 games over a 13-year career, Calvin Murphy averaged 17.9 points, 4.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game for the San Diego/Houston Rockets.
He was part of the 1980-1981 Rockets team that famously went 40-42 before running to the NBA Finals and taking the Celtics to six games before losing.
Know this: If Murphy were not 5'9", we're not having this conversation.
And in case you doubt this, check out Reggie Theus, who played in 1,026 games and averaged 18.5 points, 6.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game.
13. Gary Carter, Baseball Hall of Fame
This selection quite literally came out of nowhere when it happened, and bares little relationship to the realities of MLB history.
Gary Carter, a perfectly decent player who received plus-exposure once he went to the New York Mets, went into Cooperstown ahead of at least two more deserving candidates, Ted Simmons and Gene Tenace.
12. Glenn Anderson, Hockey Hall of Fame
Glenn Anderson won five Stanley Cup Championships.
Four of them came with the dominant Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s, and one came with the 1994 New York Rangers.
Those teams were some of the most dominant of all time, and to ascribe those championships to the play of Glenn Anderson is a bit absurd.
11. Jim Rice, Baseball Hall of Fame
Jim Rice had 382 career home runs and 1,451 RBI during his career, which are good numbers.
Of course, he also played in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the American League and in one of the most high-powered offenses in the game at the time.
Rice's RBI total was higher than Ken Singleton, Rocky Colavito, Sherry Magee, Ken Williams, Reggie Smith, Jack Clark and Bob Johnson.
Other than RBI, Rice was an inferior player to all of the above.
10. Cam Neely, Hockey Hall of Fame
A good person? Sure. A funny guy? Yes.
A personable, likable player who appealed to fans and non-fans alike? Absolutely.
But Cam Neely played 726 games in 13 seasons, topping 70 games five times, and 60 games two other times. Don't we require more of our Hall of Famers?
Much is made of Neely scoring 50 goals in 49 games in 1993-1994. Perhaps more should be made of Neely playing only 49 games that season.
Neely suffered devastating injuries throughout his career, which ultimately caused him to retire by the age of 30, and left him short, in our view, of the Hall of Fame.
9. Dennis Johnson, Basketball Hall of Fame
Dennis Johnson averaged 14 points, 5.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds during his 14-year career.
Make no mistake: This selection was not about the numbers. During his career, Johnson won three NBA Championships with two different teams, and won a Finals MVP.
The same sort of thing got Joe Dumars into the Hall of Fame.
At the same time, though, if Dennis Johnson is a Hall of Famer, isn't Derek Fisher going to be as well?
8. John Madden, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Wanna induct John Madden for his years of contributions from inside the commentators booth?
Wanna put a special wing in the Hall of Fame for Madden's game-changing video games?
But inducting John Madden as a coach?
Madden took over an incredibly talented and vaunted Oakland Raiders team at the age of 32, and promptly guided the Raiders to five AFC Championship losses in seven seasons.
Madden retired after the 1978 season, ended his coaching career after 10 seasons with a remarkable 103-32-7 record but an abysmal 9-7 playoff record. There is no question that Madden was a good coach, but have we ever requested less of a Hall-of-Fame coach?
The skepticism surrounding Madden's induction, in my mind, arises from the fact that he was not inducted in the interim after his coaching career ended in 1978, but in 2006, after establishing himself as a world-wide football icon from the booth and the cover of his video game.
Celebrate that, but don't pretend that his coaching career wasn't an anomaly.
7. Tony Perez, Baseball Hall of Fame
The problem with Tony Perez is that he is less exceptional than several non-Hall of Famers.
Perez was not a more important member of the Big Red Machine than Dave Concepcion, who is not in the Hall.
Perez was not a better first baseman than Steve Garvey, who is not in the Hall.
Perez was not a better third baseman than Ron Santo, who is not in the Hall.
And, Perez was not better in any way than Dick Allen, who is not in the Hall.
You can add George Foster, Graig Nettles and Dwight Evans to the list of players who had better careers than Tony Perez and did not go into the Hall of Fame.
6. Earl Campbell, Football Hall of Fame
There is no doubt that Earl Campbell was a legend in the NFL with the Houston Oilers. We question, though, whether that legend was more perception than reality.
Campbell ranks very high on the career list in rushing yards, but those yards were accumulated in four excellent seasons.
Four excellent seasons.
Campbell dominated the league early in his career, leading the NFL in rushing his first three years and rushing for 1,300 yards in his fourth year. Then he was mediocre during the 1981 strike season, rushed for 1,300 more yards in 1982, and he was done.
If four great seasons does it, fine, but where, then, is Terrell Davis?
5. Bernie Federko, Hockey Hall of Fame
Bernie Federko is best known for racking up lots of points in the early 1980s.
The problem, of course, is that lots of guys racked up lots of points in the early 1980s.
From 1980 to 1986 he scored 100 points in a season four times without ever finishing in the top eight.
The Hall of Fame should, at least in part, be premised upon greatness compared with contemporaries. Federko was an All-Star twice in 14 years.
Is this greatness?
4. Lynn Swann, Pro Football Hall of Fame
The presence in the NFL Hall of Fame of Lynn Swann is a puzzler.
This is a guy who never had a 1,000-yard season as a receiver; in fact, he never topped 880 yards in a season.
We could blame it on his era, as he played in the mid-to-late 1970's, but teammate John Stallworth had three 1,000-yard recieving seasons, two of which came while Swann and Stallworth were on the same team.
Swann went into Canton two full years ahead of Stallworth despite the fact that Stallworth had over 300 more receptions than Swann (537 vs. 336) and 3,000 more yards (8,723 vs. 5,462).
3. Don Drysdale, Baseball Hall of Fame
In 14 seasons, in the middle of the most pitcher-friendly era in the modern era of Major League Baseball, Don Drysdale pitched in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball history and had a good run: 3,432 innings, 2,486 strikeouts, 209 wins, 2.95 ERA (121 ERA-plus).
He also led the league in hit batsmen five times, led the league in hits allowed twice, and allowed 280 home runs, all by the time he retired at the age of 32.
David Cone, Dave Steib, Jimmy Key and Bret Saberhagen all pitched at least as well and at least as long as Drysdale without the pitcher-friendly contexts and never sniffed the Hall of Fame.
2. Joe Namath, Football Hall of Fame
The Legend of Joe Namath so outshines the Reality of Joe Namath that it is almost embarrassing.
Namath's career moment came when he boldly predicted that the upstart Jets would defeat the favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
What is often forgotten is that it was the Jets' defense, and not Namath, that was the driving force behind the victory, as they intercepted Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall four times.
What is also forgotten is that Joe Namath's prolific passing yard seasons were also prolific interception seasons; while Namath was leading the NFL in passing yards in 1966 and 1967, he also led the NFL in interceptions, and in seven complete seasons, Namath led the NFL in interceptions four times.
His touchdown-to-interception ratio is 173-to-220, which is horrendous, as is his 62-63-4 record as a starter.
Namath had one moment and some prolific yardage seasons.
Tell me how that makes him different from Ken Stabler or Jim Plunkett I am not sure, and Kurt Warner better be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
1. Bill Walton, Basketball Hall of Fame
This one has always been a head-scratcher.
We do believe that Walton was uniquely talented and capable of many great things had he not suffered debilitating injuries. Walton is not only in the Basketball Hall of Fame, but he is also on the list of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players.
But shouldn't we require more from our players than Walton put forward?
Walton played in exactly 10 seasons in the NBA. In one of those 10, he played only 10 games; he also played 14 games once, 33 games once and 35 games once. Walton played more than 80 games exactly once, the second to last season of his career, when he was 33 years old, averaged 19 minutes and started two games.
Walton famously sat out the 1978-1979 season while with the Trailblazers in a protest over the treatment of his many injuries during his time with the team. After signing with the San Diego Clippers for the 1979-1980 season, Walton played in only 14 games. He then missed the entire 1980-1981 and 1981-1982 seasons.
At the end of his career, Walton had averaged 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game over the course of 468 games, which is roughly the equivelant of just under six full seasons.
In short, if Bill Walton is in the Hall of Fame for averaging a 13.3/10.5 over 468 games because we know he would have been awesome if he had not gotten hurt, then where is Ralph Sampson (15.4/8.8 over 456 games).
And, get ready to welcome Yao Ming, because he is a lock by the Walton standard.