NBA: 50 Current and Retired Players to Be Considered for Hall of Fame
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame just inducted its 52nd class with Dennis Rodman, Artis Gilmore, Chris Mullin and my man, Arvydas Sabonis, headlining the class.
These four guys really exemplify the four types of players who get inducted into the Hall recently: a player who excelled on one side of the court for great teams; a long overlooked player from the past; a player whose NBA career is helped out by his college career; and a great international player.
On top of these types of guys, there are no-brainers like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in the previous two years, along with coaches, referees, basketball contributors and announcers.
It seems that in the past few years, there are some players that are borderline legendary that have been overlooked while some of the great players of the 1990s and early-2000s are retiring and becoming Hall eligible.
So, with so many great players out there, I have decided to take a look at everyone to dribble a basketball professionally who are not yet in the Hall and decided who has the best shot at getting in. These are the top 50.
50. Derrick Rose
Still a young guy, but with a very promising career ahead of him and a handful of accomplishments already under his belt.
He has a Rookie of the Year award and already led one team to the Eastern Conference Finals in a year in which he was the NBA MVP.
Plus, to pad his greatness in just four years of basketball above the high school level, Rose won an NCAA National Championship with Memphis.
49. Deron Williams
He has yet to win any discernible award or a championship title, but he did lead a very good Illinois team to the NCAA Championship in 2005 while being named to his second Big Ten First Team.
As a pro he has been one of the best point guards in the league for half a decade and has led the Jazz to a Western Conference Finals in 2007.
48. Bill Laimbeer
Bill Laimbeer, as a part of the "Bad Boy" Pistons, was one of the most physical big men in the league for the better part of a decade.
At his peak, Lambs was good for 16 points and 13 boards per game, while making four All-Star games in his career.
He was one of the three most important players on two championship teams, who were, by the way, the only ones to turn back Michael Jordan's Bulls at the Conference Championship level.
47. Kevin Durant
With two scoring titles under his belt, Kevin Durant already has something to point to when the Hall of Fame committee debates his credentials.
On top of that, he was an AP Player of the Year in 2007, John Wooden Award Winner, Naismith Men's College Player of the Year and the 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year.
Quite frankly, with the accomplishments of some others who are in the Hall, Durant could coast on 20 points a game for the next eight or nine years and be a lock for induction.
46. Tom Chambers
When you are a superstar player with seemingly no identity (meaning you aren't immediately associated with a singular team) it's hard to get into the Hall quickly.
He averaged around 18 points and seven rebounds a game for the Clippers, Sonics and Suns, along with lesser roles with the Jazz, Hornets and 76ers.
As one of the best shooting big men of the '80s, Chambers was basically a middle-class man's Larry Bird without any defense. But when you think about how good Bird was, that's still saying something about Chambers.
45. Mark Eaton
One of the toughest, defensive big men of the 1980s, Mark Eaton is a player who I think is a no-brainer Hall of Famer.
Dennis Rodman was elected into the Hall this year on the basis of an all-defense game, with an emphasis on rebounds. Mark Eaton is basically that only with an emphasis on shot blocking instead of rebounding.
The only reason Rodman is in and Eaton isn't is Eaton's lack of championships.
He led the league four times in blocks and once in rebounds and the best shot-blocking season total of all time with 456, along with three of the top ten and four of the top 15.
44. Robert Horry
Most will look at Robert Horry and call him a lucky role player who was good enough to make his way onto seven championship teams.
However, I would say he is the most clutch basketball player not named Michael Jordan since 1990 and the best role player and clubhouse guy of all time.
Being the best anything of all time at least warrants Hall consideration.
43. Chauncey Billups
Chauncey Billups is one of those borderline guys who I think you could make a case for when you give weight to his peak.
Billups is a good player when you look at his career numbers. Good, but not great.
However, with his Finals MVP award in 2004, the fact that he was the ringleader of a team with no go-to guy, making him the go-to guy in the process for a team that was the best in the Eastern Conference for four years.
His leadership, clutch shooting and the overall value of his intangibles should be enough to get him in.
42. Ken Sailors
What does a little white dude who played college ball in Wyoming and just five seasons of professional ball have to contribute to the Hall you might ask?
Well, as chronicled in John Christgau's Origins of the Jump Shot: Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basketball, Kenny Sailors was at least partly responsible for creating and popularizing the jump shot.
If it weren't for guys like Sailors, the NBA would look exactly as it did in 1950 with a bunch of guys shooting from their tip-toes.
41. Jo Jo White
One more of the great Celtics from the 1970s, and probably the last one that deserves to be in the Hall, Jo Jo White gets in for a combination of his international career, college career and NBA career.
White was a part of the gold medal-winning 1968 USA basketball team, some great Kansas basketball teams in the late-1960s, where he was a two-time Second Team All-American, and more great Boston Celtics teams in the 1970s.
White was a great defender, had a good jump shot, was the 1976 Finals MVP and a seven-time All-Star.
40. Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman
From Cincinnati to New Orleans, people are asking, "Who Dey?" and "Who Dat?"
Well, Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman were the co-founders of Blue Ribbon Sports, later changing their name to Nike, Inc.
Originally specializing in running shoes, Nike eventually started making basketball shoes, and are now the preeminent basketball shoe company in the world.
If Chuck Taylor is in the Hall, then these guys deserve to be in.
39. Jack Sikma
As one of the most durable and dependable big men of all time, it's a bit disappointing that Jack Sikma isn't in the Hall of Fame yet.
Sikma was a huge part of the 1979 Champion Seattle Sonics, an amazing free-throw shooting big guy and a double-double machine.
The thing that gets him when talking about the Hall of Fame is his inconsistent defense, which was unusual for that time period.
38. Amar'e Stoudemire
Amar'e Stoudemire gets a lot of flak for his lack of defense and a "traditional" game for a center; but really he has been a great player.
Stoudemire is damn near averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for his career, along with one-and-a-half blocks per game.
Once the Knicks get their team put together and Stoudemire continues to put up good numbers, he should be a sure-fire HoFer.
37. Chris Paul
Even after his injury problems and his battles with the New Orleans Hornets front office, I still consider Chris Paul the best point guard in the league.
Some people give me flak for not selecting Deron Williams over Paul, but when their offensive numbers are so close, it's easy to choose Paul for his defense.
Paul has led the league in steals four times in six years, which is tied with Michael Ray Richardson for the most seasons leading the NBA.
Pair that with him leading the league in assists twice, his stellar shooting and his First Team All-American selection at Wake Forest and you have a Hall of Famer right there.
36. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo is probably the best pure scorer in the NBA, and has had more ooh and aah moments than any other forward with the ball in his hand since he came into the league.
On name alone, on top of his stats he should be able to slide into the Hall with very little problems, especially now that he is on one of the most promising teams in the NBA.
35. Tony Parker
Tony Parker's NBA stats alone don't warrant a trip to the Hall, especially when you take into consideration the fact that as a point guard, he averages fewer than six assists per year.
However, add his three All-Star selections, three NBA championships and NBA Finals MVP with his FIBA Under-18 Championship MVP and his two years in France, and you can make a good argument for him.
34. Marv Albert
Does Marv Albert belong in the Hall of Fame?
Albert was the voice of the New York Knicks for 37 years, he has been the lead play-by-play man with the TNT team since 1999 and has been with the YES Network for Nets games since 2005.
The only hiccup in his career was that little sexual assault charge back in 1997.
33. Manu Ginobili
Call him a flopper, call him a dirty player, call him whatever you want, but don't forget to leave out innovator.
The way Ginobili plays the game is unique to Manu Ginobili and really nobody else. You will see 100 more "Next Michael Jordans" before you see someone anointed as the "Next Manu Ginobili."
Aside from his three championships in the US, he has five various MVP awards from Europe and was named one of the 35 best Euroleague players of all time.
32. Vince Carter
Vince Carter's career has gone downhill quickly, and it kind of sucks to see him hanging on as a non-athletic old dude who won't drive to the lane anymore.
Carter was once one of the most athletic guys in the league, and although he was easy to keep out of the lane (just knock him down a few times and he starts shooting jumpers), he is easily one of the best dunkers of all time.
He may have not had great playoff success, but he was an eight-time All-Star and really was half man/half amazing.
31. Alonzo Mourning
'Zo is a mortal lock for the Hall.
Starting from college, Mourning was a three-time All-American, a gold-medal Olympian, seven-time NBA All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and an NBA Champion in 2006.
On top of that, he came back from a kidney transplant to win a championship, something the HoF committee will eat up with a spoon.
30. Dwight Howard
Already a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time All-Star, Dwight Howard just needs to worry about if he is going to be a first-ballot HoFer.
He has led the league twice in blocked shots and five times in rebounds, all in just seven short years in the league.
29. Grant Hill
Some will look at Grant Hill and say he was a good player but never great. However, I would say the fact that Hill overcame so much to get to where he is now is worthy of a look.
The goal of the Hall is “to celebrate the greatest moments and people in basketball on a worldwide basis," and I would argue that Hill is one of the greatest people in basketball in the past decade.
He had a six-year period of being a superstar, followed by four out of five years decimated by injury, followed by five years of being one of the best defensive forwards in the league.
Add that to his accomplishments in college, and I would say that he is worthy of enshrinement.
28. Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace is basically the Dennis Rodman of the 2000s.
He is a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, a four-time All-Star and a six-time All-Defensive Team member.
On top of that, he was the core of the defense for the Detroit Pistons, the dynasty that never really became a dynasty in the '00s.
27. Yao Ming
Looking at Yao Ming's numbers aren't really enough to get the whole picture of his impact on the basketball world.
Before Yao Ming's foray into the NBA, the best Chinese player from the mysterious land was Zhizhi Wang. Yao pretty much obliterated the "best Chinese player ever" category.
He was a three-time FIBA Asian Championship MVP, an eight time NBA All-Star and a great shooter as a big man.
Yao opened up China for the NBA, and was basically the catalyst for the league's involvement with the billion-person nation.
26. Curly Neal
One of the most important basketball teams in the past sixty years has been the Harlem Globetrotters.
As far as importance goes, basketball probably has the Lakers and Celtics as 1A and 1B, followed by the Globetrotters.
So far, Wilt Chamberlain, Meadowlark Lemon, Marques Hayes and Goose Tatum are in, but Curly has been left out.
I would argue that the ball handler for the Globetrotters for most of the 1970s and '80s is the third-most important of them all, just after Lemon and Chamberlain.
25. Don Nelson
Back when the NBA created their top 50 players ever in 1997, they also created a top 10 coaches list.
Of the 10, Don Nelson is named alongside nine other coaches including Red Auerbach, Pat Riley and Lenny Wilkens.
Why is he not in? Well, Nelly has that whole thing where he hasn't won a championship following him around.
Still, he deserves to be in there.
24. Vlade Divac
He was a flopper, but he was a smart player and a great man, too.
Upon first mention of Divac, one wouldn't immediately think HoFer. However, considering his international accomplishments with his NBA career, and he should have already been inducted.
Divac was Mister Europa in 1989 (basically European Player of the Year). He also has ten medals in various international basketball tournaments, including two silver medals in the Olympics and two gold medals in the FIBA World Championships with Yugoslavia.
Divac was to Eastern European basketball what Hakeem Olajuwon was to African basketball.
Speaking of African basketball...
23. Dikembe Mutombo
Dikembe Mutombo is the second-most important African basketball player in the history of the continent, barely beating out Saleh from The Air Up There.
Mutombo could probably get in just based on his NBA accomplishments, including four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, eight All-Star selections. Plus, he is the only multiple-winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given yearly to a player who shows outstanding dedication to his community.
Apart from his frightening appearance and voice, Mutombo is probably one of the nicest and most charitable guys to ever pick up a basketball.
22. Bernard King
Starting from college, Bernard King started racking up honors and awards for his stellar play, and yet he continues to be snubbed.
King was the SEC Player of the Year three times, a consensus All-American once, a four-time NBA All-Star and four-time selection to an All-NBA team.
One of the problems with King is that his peak was spread out over three teams and interrupted by an injury, so he really isn't easy to associate with a single team. But he deserves to be in nonetheless.
21. Spencer Haywood
Now that Artis Gilmore is in the Hall, Spencer Haywood owns the title of most inexcusable exclusion from the Hall.
Sure, you can pick apart his stats and say that he was a light rebounder for the era. However, he had one of the most impressive ABA seasons in the history of the league, putting up 30 points and 19.5 rebounds a game. That's damn near Wilt Chamberlain-esque.
Beyond that, Haywood was the first player to challenge eligibility rules in the NBA, suing the league in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court ruled in favor of Haywood, striking down the rule that players had to be four years out of high school before they could enter the NBA, thus allowing players to enter the league right out of high school.
20. Chris Webber
Chris Webber had the potential to be the best power forward of all time, but he'll have to settle for Hall of Famer.
Webber's induction is just a matter of time, as he had a great NBA career despite injuries, averaging nearly a double-double for his career (20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds).
On top of that, he was a part of one of the best college basketball teams ever, Michigan's Fab Five, with which he went to two consecutive NCAA title games, was an All-American and National Player of the Year.
19. Tracy McGrady
If it weren't for his inability to get out of the first round of the playoffs, Tracy McGrady would possibly be a first ballot HoFer and would potentially be one of the 30 best players of all time. Give him a championship and we're talking top-25.
As far as MVP Awards go, he was always a bridesmaid, finishing in the top 10 in voting six times in his career.
He added to that seven All-Star selections, back-to-back scoring titles and seven All-NBA Team selections.
18. Gary Payton
The Glove is one of the greatest defensive guards of the past 25 years, and he ended his career with a well deserved championship in 2006 with the Miami Heat.
He has the fourth-most steals in NBA history and was the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year, only the third guard to win the award after Sidney Moncrief and Michael Jordan.
17. 1972 Los Angeles Lakers
I have a gripe with the Basketball Hall of Fame. Though it inducts basketball teams, the Hall has only inducted eight teams—none from the NBA—so I'm putting in three of the best teams in NBA history, starting with the 1972 Lakers.
Coached by Hall of Famer Bill Sharman, the '72 Lakers stormed their way to the title, led by Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich and Jim McMillian.
They lost only 16 games against 73 wins (69-13 regular season, 12-3 playoffs) and bested the New York Knicks to win the title.
16. 1986 Boston Celtics
Arguably the best team of all time—in terms of lineups that could go up against any other team in league history—the Boston Celtics cruised to the Finals, losing only two games at home.
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge and, of course, Bill Walton, piled up an 82-18 (67-15 regular season, 15-3 playoffs) record on the way to beating the Rockets in six games (along with dispatching Jordan's Bulls in three games in the first round).
You could argue that the only reason they didn't win 70 games in the regular season was out of boredom, as they went into every game expecting to win it.
15. 1996 Chicago Bulls
There are probably better Bulls teams in terms of firepower, but the 72-win season is the benchmark for great teams.
Many of the guys on this team don't even need first names to be recognized: Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Longley, Kukoc, Kerr, Harper. They were a team that really couldn't be beaten, the title was a foregone conclusion.
Other teams I considered putting in this list include the '67 and '83 76ers (the fo' fo' fo' team), the '70 Knicks and the '60, '62 and '65 Celtics.
14. Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade was the best player on a championship team back in 2006 and the best player on a team that lost in the Finals this year.
Aside from that, Wade owns a scoring title, and his ability on both offense and defense, along with his accomplishments in college, will warrant a trip to the Hall.
13. Paul Pierce
Really all Paul Pierce needed to be was "the next great Celtic" and he would make it to the Hall of Fame, whether he really earned it or not.
However, Pierce is legitimately the next great Celtic, and he has earned every bit of that title.
One day he will have his number retired by Boston and his number 34 will hang in the rafters along with the 2008 NBA Championship banner that is up there now.
12. LeBron James
Sure, he doesn't have a title, but few players with an MVP Award aren't in the Hall (and aren't in because they aren't yet eligible), an no guys with two aren't in it.
LeBron is a surefire HoFer, he could retire today and get in, but he needs to continue to strive to win a title to be a first-ballot selection.
The only reason he isn't higher is because there are some retired guys who are extremely deserving and some guys close to retirement who have a much larger body of work.
11. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki can go down right now as the best European basketball player ever and the second-best international player after to Hakeem Olajuwon.
He now has a championship ring to go along with his MVP Award from back in 2007, ten All-Star Game selections, 11 All-NBA Team selections and his revolutionary style of play.
10. Reggie Miller
There used to be no debate that Reggie Miller was the greatest three-point shooter of all time, but now that Ray Allen has taken the record away from him there is something to argue.
However, there should be no debate that Miller is going into the Hall of Fame.
Miller never got a ring, as he was one of the many stars victimized by the Michael Jordan Era. But he did lead his team to the playoffs every year except one from the season he was 24 until he retired at 39.
9. Mark Jackson
As much as he is in the public eye these days, you would think Mark Jackson would get more love, because he was really the second-best point guard of the 1990s.
Jackson is second on the all-time assists list behind John Stockton and was in the top 10 in assists 12 times in his long career.
He really has been penalized for his longevity, he was in the league for so long that he was able to rack up huge numbers. But he was in the league for so long because he was good for so long.
Aside from his incredible assist numbers, Jackson was an excellent defender, and is about to complete the trifecta, going from great basketball player, great commentator to (hopefully) great head coach.
8. Steve Nash
Steve Nash doesn't play much defense, but in reality it doesn't matter.
Nash will go down as one of the greatest offensive point guards of all time, one of the greatest shooters, the greatest free throw shooter and a two-time MVP Award winner.
He doesn't have that ever-elusive ring, but there isn't a reason to believe that he won't one day be in the Hall of Fame.
7. Ray Allen
Ray Allen and Reggie Miller are pretty close in terms of who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame more. But when it comes down to it, Allen has a ring, Reggie does not.
That puts a tiny bit of space between the two, along with the fact that Allen now holds the record that was once Miller's for most three-pointers made in a career.
6. Jason Kidd
I would go as far as to call Jason Kidd the most well-rounded point guard since John Stockton graced the NBA with his presence.
Allen Iverson and Steve Nash were better offensively, Chris Paul is better defensively, but Kidd is a do-it-all guard who outdistanced the field as the best since Stockton.
He led two teams to the NBA Finals, where he was turned back by the two dynasties of the decade, but finally got his ring this year with the Dallas Mavericks.
5. Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is probably the most polarizing player of the 2000s, more so than Kobe Bryant.
Everyone had an opinion about Iverson, they either loved him or they hated him—initially even I hated him. But as his career wound down and he looked like a much more compassionate man (reminiscent of Bryant), I started to love him for the brilliance that he brought to the game.
Forget stats—he's in the Hall based on stats alone—but when you watched Iverson play he would do something jaw-dropping every other possession.
His crossover is the best in NBA history, and I'll stick by that. Tim Hardaway had the "killer crossover," but Allen Iverson's crossover committed genocide.
4. Kevin Garnett
For about four years in the early-to-mid-2000s, the debate was constantly raging between Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan for the best power forward.
Well, Garnett has had an amazing career, but the debate all but died now that Tim Duncan is the undisputed champion of power forwards.
Garnett went to 14 All-Star Games and was selected to nine All-NBA Teams and 11 All-Defensive Teams.
3. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is good. Like really good. But two guys are slightly more deserving of enshrinement than he is, basically meaning when you ask someone if Bryant is a HoFer, it takes them five milliseconds to say "yes." But with the other two it only takes three milliseconds.
With five NBA titles under his belt, an MVP Award, 18 selections to an All-NBA or Defensive first team, Bryant is easily the best guard since Michael Jordan.
2. Shaquille O'Neal
You might ask, Why is Shaq ahead of Kobe? Well, the short answer is that history treats big men differently than small guys.
People will never question Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabar and now Shaquille O'Neal—they are the four greatest big men of all time. Some argument will be given to the order, but nobody else cracks the top four.
When you look at guards and forwards, however, everyone has their favorites. Even now people are trying to dethrone Michael Jordan as the G.O.A.T., even though it is borderline insane to do so.
Think about it, if you ask an avid NBA fan to name their top four guards of all time, it could include in some order Jordan, Bryant, George Gervin, Clyde Drexler, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, just to name a few.
With centers, there are just four candidates to fill out the top four, and to put anyone else in seems blasphemous.
1. Tim Duncan
In all honesty, you can argue that Kobe Bryant is the greatest player since Jordan, but my vote goes to Tim Duncan every time.
Duncan has made the All-Star Game every year he has been in the league, and until this season, he made both the All-Defensive and All-NBA team in some respect every year since his rookie season, with 18 combined selections to first teams.
On top of that, Duncan had the amazing college career that Kobe didn't, being named an All-American three times to go along with a Player of the Year award.
Once in the NBA, Duncan grabbed two MVPs, two Finals MVPs and four championships. Plus, he is one of the five best teammates of all time, something that is constantly overlooked.
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