Hall of Fame Debate: Most Deserving

The updated rankings, following last week’s release of the nominees for the Class of 2013 in Springfield, Mass., includes one stretch and one asterisk pick, but the premise is the same as the standings from last April in the wake of the election for the Class of 2012: The order of most deserving among candidates on the ballot with NBA or ABA ties.

The fine print is important. This list does not weigh cases from the amateur and women’s game or most from the International, Early African-American Pioneers and Veterans categories. It’s NBA and ABA. And, it’s people under consideration by voters, not anyone deserving of induction. Gregg Popovich and David Stern, among others, have made it clear they do not yet want to be nominated, just as Jerry Sloan held out for years before finally agreeing in 2009 to undergo the discomfort of friends and peers saying nice things about him.

There is obviously a new No. 1 that creates a domino effect, now that Gary Payton is under consideration, and also alterations lower on the list after the inclusion of other new and renewed nominees or simply a change of thinking. Plus, Mark Jackson is off the Hall ballot after failing to get a single vote from nine panelists in three consecutive years. (Jackson was always a long shot for enshrinement – consistently good, never great – but No. 3 on the career assist list has to at least get someone away from 0 for 27.)

The outcome of the first round of voting for the North American committee, which handles most nominees with an NBA background, will be announced at All-Star weekend, with the survivors then advancing to a final layer of balloting before inductees are revealed at the Final Four. Candidates via the ABA committee face a single ballot before a maximum of one winner is named at All-Star.

1. Payton, North American committee: The Glove was selected first-team All-Defense by coaches nine consecutive times in the 1990s and 2000s, All-NBA twice and Defensive Player of the Year once as chosen by the media, and part of two Olympic golds and one NBA championship. The anonymous Hall voters have been hard lately on first-ballot nominees – Dennis Rodman went from not making finalist in 2010 all the way to being elected in ’11 and Reggie Miller had the same bounce back from 2011 to ’12 – but giving Payton the same rookie hazing would generate the largest outcry yet.

2. Bernard King, North American: He averaged 22.5 points despite two serious knee injuries, finished better than 20 a game in 11 different seasons and was also a scoring star at Tennessee, an important consideration in a process where college achievements count. King was first-team All-NBA only twice and second-team once, but he played at the same time Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Dominique Wilkins were working forwards.

3. Jerry Krause, Contributor: From April 2012, despite a drop in the rankings with the Payton addition: “He put together the Bulls championship era. Period. Michael Jordan was already there when Krause took over as head of basketball operations, but Krause traded for Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, Dennis Rodman and Luc Longley, Krause signed Ron Harper, John Paxson, Scott Williams, Steve Kerr and Bill Wennington, Krause drafted Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc, B.J. Armstrong and Will Perdue, Krause hired Phil Jackson as coach.”

4. Tim Hardaway, North American: Hardaway made All-NBA five times, five All-Star teams, won a gold medal in the Olympics and another in the world championships with a versatility few point guards could equal. He scored even on Golden State and Miami teams with other stars and passed as a talented playmaker.

5. Mitch Richmond, North American: Richmond wasn’t just elected an All-Star six times. He was elected an All-Star six times off bad Kings teams. Talk about a platform statement from coaches for a Hall candidacy. Richmond was second- or third-team All-NBA five times in an era with Jordan, John Stockton, Payton and Hardaway.

6. Jerry Tarkanian, North American: The stretch, because Tark’s NBA connection is all of 20 games as Spurs coach in 1992-93 before being fired and returning to the college ranks. But a return to the ballot as a re-activated candidate is particularly welcome to his many admirers as Tarkanian struggles with health issues. It wouldn’t be a sympathy vote, either. He has one national title, four Final Fours and a .790 winning percentage in Division I.

7. George McGinnis, ABA: As a Pacers rookie in 1971-72, McGinnis averaged 16.9 points. The next three seasons were 27.6, 25.9 and a league-leading 29.8, the latter while being named co-MVP of the rebel league. He was a major part of two ABA titles. Candidates are supposed to be judged on merits in this category alone, but just in case voters get wandering eyes, there is also McGinnis’ NBA resume of three All-Star appearances in seven seasons and at least 21 points a game seven consecutive seasons in the two leagues combined.

8. Maurice Cheeks, North American: When he retired in 1993, Cheeks was No. 5 on the all-time assist list and No. 1 in steals, to be passed since by Stockton, Jordan, Jason Kidd and Payton. There will be an obvious hit because Cheeks never put up glittery numbers in scoring or assists, getting to fifth on the career rankings through longevity and steady play, but he was an integral part of a championship team (Philadelphia in 1983) and a four-time selection to the All-Defense squad by coaches.

9. Bob “Slick” Leonard, ABA: He won 529 games and three titles as Pacers coach. That’s a worthy election campaign right there. But the former Indiana University star also has the major intangible of being known as one of the key factors in keeping professional basketball in the state when it once appeared the Pacers could be moving.

10. Vlade Divac, International: Divac was a centerpiece of the national team in the former Yugoslavia that won two Olympic silver medals along with two golds and one bronze in the world championships, giving him a rare standing in international competition. He was a leader and one of the best passing centers in NBA history. The move to North America led to Divac being named to one All-Star team and becoming the first player born and trained in Europe to play 1,000 games in the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki later became the second.

The asterisk: Sarunas Marciulionis: Marciulionis is nominated via the International committee and has a credible case thanks to his leading role as the Soviet Union won gold in 1988 and bronze with Lithuania in 1992 shortly after his native country declared independence from the crumbling USSR. But his real path should be as a Contributor. He decided to break from the Soviet system and come to the NBA in 1989 at more personal risk than most who didn’t live in that environment can comprehend. And his role in keeping the Lithuanian program going, just to reach the ’92 Games with the tie-dyed backing of the Grateful Dead, is the stuff of legends.

Marciulionis easily makes the list as a Contributor. But players almost always prefer to be judged as players, not for what in his case is a historic role in the game off the court. So, until he requests a change, he will be voted on through the International category.

It is important to keep in mind that this is not a prediction of the best chances for induction. One candidate from among 14 possibilities in the ABA section will jump the line and be elected, part of an initiative by the Hall the last few years to re-evaluate candidates who may have fallen from public view. A Contributor will be enshrined, so former NBA executive Russ Granik, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf or ex-NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt, a driving force in the evolution of March Madness, could make it while credible nominees from the North American field do not.


  1. Tim crow says:

    Anyone who is huffing and puffing about the hof being a joke, but also thinks Bernard king is undeserving of election is severely underestimating their own ignorance. King > Payton, n00bs. Geesh!! A fine example of why comments shouldn’t be allowed under articles on the Internet.

  2. Eric says:

    wheres reggie theus? him, divac, payton, and king should get in

  3. Tim says:

    Interesting note for Andrew Gaze, was left off the playoff roster but was given a championship ring.

  4. Jordan Bromfield says:

    micheal jordan has even said that mitch richmond was tough to defend

  5. Jordan Bromfield says:

    only 3 guys to me deserve to be in the hall of fame (bernard king, gp, and mitch richmond)

  6. Kenneth says:

    Yea…because I have Larry bird on speed dial, so I can just hit him up at my convenience and ask him.

  7. Ben Davis says:

    Bernard King Should have been in the HOF. Anyways, Gary Payton is my favorite, but Mitch Richmond definitely deserves it, Tim Hardaway deserves it as well, he did much more than just that cross over.

    My order would be BK, GP, TH, and MR. they all should be in the Hall of Fame, don’t care how the rest fits in, but those should be easy picks.

  8. Pokie says:

    Maurice Cheeks and Dawn Staley should both get in. He’s overdue and she’s right on time.

  9. Pan S. says:

    How about Nick Galis? Shouldn’t he be in the Hall of Fame?

  10. chris k says:

    How about the Greek gurd, Nikos Galis..? You didn’t mention any of his career time as he is a hall of fame nominee this year , right?

  11. Andy says:

    David Stern and Hall of Fame should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, be in the same sentence. HOF will lose all integrity.

    • Ben says:

      Lakers fan?

      Gosh. Stern is as much a lock for the hall of fame as Bryant or LeBron. And rightfully so. Thinking otherwise just demonstrates ignorance. He has contributed a huge amount and he saved the game – possibly more than once.

  12. Joe says:

    Bernard King should have his number retired at MSG AND be inducted into the Hall of Fame. One of the most dynamic players during his day…..just ask Larry Bird.

  13. Guilherme says:

    How about Oscar Schmidt? The Olympics all time leading scorer, and beat up the USA in Indianapolis at the 1987 Pan American games. How many players did at against the USA team?

  14. Duane Bean says:

    Bobby “Slick” Lenoard deserves to get in no matter what for the 529 wins and three championships, also the broadcasting job he has done for the Pacers and the work he does for the game of basketball

  15. willie says:

    payton krause and divac. maybe hardaway, but not on his 1st try. the others can’t enter, they are just all-stars, not hall of famers.

  16. Adam S says:

    If Tim (Homophobic) Hardaway get’s in it will be a travesty.

    • Crazygirl992 says:

      this is about basketball not personal beliefs, if this was a requirement then half of the greatest players we’ve ever seen wouldn’t be accepted because they are either muslim or christan, examples being Ojajuwon, and Robinson, this is about basketball not personal views or beliefs

  17. Dave Z says:

    How is it that Cheeks is not yet in?

  18. dattebayo says:

    Not everybody gets into the Hall of Fame with ease, how long did it take for Tex Winter to get in. I mean he only invented the triangle offense that won 11 Championships in 20 years.

    Jack Sikma isn’t even mentioned anywhere, how about that?

  19. Mister 215 says:

    Yea but I think Bernard King should be in the HOF, but you would have had to see him play to understand why.

  20. James says:

    The HoF becomes a joke when you literally bring anyone in. I only see Gary Payton on the list above. No one else.

    • TJ says:

      Then you know nothing about the history of this sport.

      • James says:

        i am writing history of this sport. the HoF is becoming overcrowded. It should only be fewest as possible so ppl remember all the names. How many ppl can name all the HoFs? Not even all NBA players can do that and it’s their career. thats all they do, thats all they get paid for.

  21. Hm says:

    In my opinion:
    1. Mitch Richmond
    2. Gary Payton
    3. Tim Hardaway

    I see Jacques still can’t stand the Clippers.

  22. Jacques Durceille says:

    Step up Challengers.

  23. Jacques Durceille says:

    Only Gary. The hall of fame of Basketball is the easiest to get into in all major sports. Not everyone with ok or good numbers should get in. Only the bests should get into it. Only Gary has proven himself.None of the others. Lets move along, the door is not open to everyone. At this rate, Deandre Jordan will get into the hall of fame. It’s a joke.

    • Rocket33 says:

      I agree with you in part on this one. But it depends on how you look at it really. Are we talking just Statistics? Championships? Or a player’s influence on the game? Tim Hardaway brought the killer crossover into the game. Look at how that move has been copied and modified by all the players in the league since. Vlade opened the door for a lot of International players to come to the NBA. And Bernard King is just kind of a legend. The 60 point effort on Christmas Day, so many NBA players grew up idolizing him. Imagine if he didn’t get injured. A question, will Yao Ming get consideration for making basketball so popular in China? It’s not just the NBA Hall of Fame too. So a lot of NBA fans don’t know much about the International or even NCAA nominees. I’m 100% with you on Payton by the way. Loved watching him and Shawn Kemp back in the day.

      • BIGMatta23 says:

        Exactly, not just NBA Hall of Fame but BASKETBALL Hall of Fame.
        This may be a little of topic…but…I doubt many would know that Australian Andrew Gaze for example played in the NCAA, NBL, NBA and other leagues and avg more than 29ppg for 18 straight seasons with a high of 44.1ppg for a season in the NBL. Was a 7 time MVP, 1 of 3 bball players to play in 5 Olympic games, He is the scoring record holder in Olympic competition and 2nd all-time at World Championships. He was named one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1991. NBL Rookie of the Year after avg 29.1 ppg. One season at Seton Hall in 1989, they went to the Championship Game and lost in OT. NBA Championship with the Spurs in ’99. 2 NBL Championships. 15 x NBL First Team and All-Time Leading scorer by an absolute mile, it will certainly never ever be touched.
        I ask you all, why is this man not in the Hall of Fame??

      • Rocket33 says:

        Andrew Gaze – An Australian Legend!

      • JBR says:

        Agreed about Gaze – I’ve been wondering it for years – but one correction… Gaze did NOT win an NBA Championship, as he was not on the Spurs playoff roster.

      • Schemer21 says:

        I’m Irish, have been followinf the NBA for 20 years now. I’ve never followed the Euro League or any other league.

        Andrew Gaze – I’ve never heard of him.
        This is a fantastic example. Look at his accomplishments. Surely he should be considered? Why the small print?
        What if Dražen Petrović had never played in the NBA??

        This is defo something that needs to be looked at!

      • Eli Odell J. says:

        to the guy below
        some guy gettin 44ppg in the australia basketball league (NBL) dont mean nothin, NBA benchwarmers go over there and get 33ppg for a season,
        sure he’s big if you care to follow the NBL, but then again nobody does, even in australia, its irrelevent, half the league folded a few years back
        obviously he had no lastin effect on basketball in australia or anywhere round the world

    • Crazygirl992 says:

      benard king, Mitch richmound, and tim hardaway deserve to be there as well, what they did throughout their careers was amazing as well