Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady: Discuss their Hall of Fame worthiness.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Iverson is a no-brainer Hall of Famer, as I see it. He owns the NBA’s “pound-for-pound” and “inch-for-inch” greatest-player crowns, at least in recent memory. With a Most Valuable Player award, four scoring titles and a 26.7 ppg scoring average, he’s got the hardware and the numbers for Springfield and he even was something of a pioneer culturally with his headband, sleeve and tattoos (remember the airbrushing controversy?). McGrady? Two scoring titles, which fits an established HOF pattern (scoring champs go in). But he never led a team past the first round and, based on the last seven years of his career, he’s buying a ticket to the Hall rather than making a speech there. Staying healthy is a skill in the NBA, so as laudable as it was for McGrady to hang in as a diminished player, that doesn’t boost his case. My hunch is, he gets in but has to wait a while.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The Hall of Fame is not simply about stats or we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Iverson was a player who got the most out of his talent, was fearless and was able to carry a team in college and in the NBA. McGrady probably had as much raw talent as any player ever to enter the league and simply floated on it like a raft in the ocean. No question that McGrady was a singular talent and could be a joy to watch, but he lacked the leadership gene to rank among the greats. For those who say his failure to win a single playoff series (before riding on the Spurs’ wagon last season) was the result of having bad teammates, consider the roster that Iverson hoisted onto his shoulders all the way to the NBA Finals in 2001. That was a Hall of Fame performance. Iverson was a little guy who played big and T-Mac was a big talent who delivered small.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Iverson is a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. He might have introduced a brash new, often cringe-worthy exterior to the game (remember in 2000 when Hoop Magazine, an official NBA publication, featured on its cover an absurdly airbushed Iverson who magically bore no tattoos or gaudy jewelry?), but his interior was that of an old-school warrior. He changed perceptions of what a 6-foot-and-under guard could do. Iverson — who sits sixth on the NBA’s all-time list for highest scoring average at 26.7 ppg, ninth in steals per game at 2.17 and fourth in minutes per game at 41.1 — single-handedly (with help from a coach in Larry Brown, who fought to pry Iverson’s best) led the 76ers to the NBA Finals. He certainly wasn’t the textbook leader or role model or whatever, but he was a hell of basketball player that you couldn’t stop watching. Tracy McGrady was fluid and remarkably athletic and could score with the best of them. I remember an unbelievable duel he had with Dirk Nowitzki, with Nowitzki topping him 53 to 48. But that’s just it, McGrady and his teams always came out on the losing end, and McGrady never seemed all that phased by it. Maybe if injuries hadn’t of interrupted him he’d be all over the all-time lists like Iverson. I thought colleague Fran Blinebury summed up McGrady’s career and Hall of Fame (un)worthiness perfectly, so I’ll leave it at that.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Iverson is in for sure. Maybe not on the first ballot in a message from voters, the way Dennis Rodman did not even make it to the finalist stage his first try and then went all the way to enshrinement a year later. But Iverson isn’t even much of a debate. He will make Springfield. McGrady is much tougher of a call between the two. A great offensive weapon surrounded by questions about many other parts of his career. I think he gets in. But I also think he may have a wait.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Iverson is a no-brainer. He won an MVP, carried a team to The Finals, ranks 19th on the all-time scoring list, and was a cultural icon. There are young players in the league today wearing No. 3 because of AI. McGrady is obviously a more complicated case. At his peak, he was one of the best players in the league, but he ranks 57th on the all-time scoring list, had basically no success in the playoffs, was barely more efficient (.519 true shooting percentage, 78th among the top 100 scorers) than Iverson (.518, 79th), and didn’t make nearly the same cultural impact.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: This is an easy discussion. Both of these guys have Hall of Fame credentials. They pass my HOF smell test, which requires you to ignore the name on top of the list of accomplishments and focus strictly on the work that was done and impact on the game. I’m not saying either one of these guys was perfect. Far from it. But one guy won Rookie of the Year honors, an MVP award, four scoring titles, two All-Star Game MVPs, was a seven-time All-NBA pick, an 11-time All-Star and finished his career with 24,368 points. The other guy was a seven-time All-Star and All-NBA pick, a two-time scoring champ, won the league’s Most Improved Player award in 2001, was the USA Today High School Player of the Year in 1997 (it’s the Basketball Hall of Fame, not just the NBA Hall of Fame) and wrapped up his 16-year NBA career with 18,381 points. Iverson should be a lock, a first-ballot Hall of Famer if you ask me, while McGrady, even if you cannot stand the fact that he never lived up to his own hype in the postseason, is deserving as well. You spend at least a decade of your career among the league’s truly elite and I think you’ve earned your place in the Hall of Fame, especially when you consider some of the questionable coaching and international selections that have been enshrined in Springfield.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: If we’re choosing between the two, I’ll take Iverson over McGrady. Either way, McGrady’s candidacy, to me at least, seems much more questionable that Iverson’s. I know T-Mac scored a bunch of points and made a bunch of All-Star games, but he never got out of even the first round of the playoffs until this season, as a member of the Spurs who barely got off the bench. The entire Hall of Fame admission process is something of a mystery to me, so I’m not sure exactly what the criteria is. But if you’re looking for which player had the most impact on the world of basketball, Allen Iverson’s influence remains undeniable. McGrady was a terrific scorer. Does that mean he belongs in the Hall? I think it’s at least debatable.
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: They’re both first-ballot, no doubt about it. They both have a long line of fans waiting for that to happen. And they deserve it. The Answer looked like an average Joe among giants from a physical point of view, but he had talent like few others in the league. What he did in 2000-01, in taking the Sixers to the Finals, was unbelievable. Like Iverson, T-Mac was able to stay in the same sentence as Kobe Bryant in his prime. He had an enormous talent and without his back we would be probably talking about one of the best players of the past 15 years.
Selçuk Aytekin, NBA Turkiye: Even before you check Iverson’s and T-Mac’s bios and career highlights, I can easily say: “He is a Hall of Famer because my generation grew up with their names.” No doubt in my mind Iverson and McGrady will be Hall of Famers because of the way those two guys left their mark on NBA world. Together, they went to 18 All-Star Games and won six scoring titles (four for AI). On top of those awards, Iverson was the smallest player to ever earn MVP honors. And I still feel sorry for him not to be given one last try in the NBA. You can argue about their respective Hall of Fame worthiness in the United States but when you try to see that issue in any country in the world, you can easily aware that those two names are just like Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen …