By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
The Hall of Fame has discussed ending some or all of the five categories that gave candidates an easier path to enshrinement the last four elections, an outcome that, if it happens, would most noticeably impact former players and coaches from the ABA.
“Let’s put it this way,” said Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the Springfield, Mass., basketball museum. “This year, for the first time, we brought that up, to say, ‘You know, when we did this, we said it’s not forever.’ The concept was we felt people had slipped through the cracks. This was a catch-up kind of a thing, so we’re not locked in. We need now to review it each year, to say maybe we’ve taken care of what needed to be taken care of in this category or that category. But it’s just too early to say what we’re going to do.”
The current format with the direct-elections will “probably” remain in place for at least one more year, Colangelo said, because the Hall would prefer to phase out categories rather than make an abrupt end. That leadership is having conversations now, though, indicates internal questions have already developed about whether enough deserving candidates exist for the specialized categories beyond 2015.
While eliminating the categories would make the path to enshrinement harder in most cases, it would not end chances. It would simply return to the days of all candidates needing two rounds of voting for induction, a contrast to the current plan of a single, smaller election for nominees in the Contributor, ABA, Early African American Pioneers, Veterans and International fields. Receiving the necessary support — currently at least 18 votes from a 24-member panel — would additionally become more difficult because most candidates would be weighed in the same North American committee against the biggest names from the NBA and NCAA.
International representatives could still have separate elections and would likely remain a regular at enshrinement ceremonies every summer. Certainly a winner from the Contributors category will be as voters salute important work off the court. A lot of the winners from there, including David Stern in 2014, are getting in with any selection process.
But not having its own vote would clearly be a blow to hopefuls from the ABA years after the category Colangelo created with the African American Pioneers in 2010 became the Springfield welcome mat for Artis Gilmore, Mel Daniels, Roger Brown and, this year, Bob Leonard. It has turned out to be an annual Pacers salute. In the greatest sign of the importance of the direct-elects, Gilmore had been removed from the ballot in the North America category from a lack of support before making it via the ABA.
That puts a lot of candidates on the clock if the current format is canceled after one more election cycle: Zelmo Beatty, Ron Boone, Mack Calvin, Louie Dampier, Freddie Lewis, George McGinnis, Doug Moe and Bob Netolicky, among others. One of the biggest ABA names, Spencer Haywood, is going through the North America committee and is a 2014 finalist.
In addition to the elections of Stern and Leonard announced in February, Sarunas Marciulionis made the Class of 2014 from the International committee, Nat Clifton via the Early African American Pioneers and Guy Rodgers from the Veterans. The inductees from among the finalists following a second round of voting for the North America — Tim Hardaway, Haywood, Kevin Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Nolan Richardson, Mitch Richmond, Eddie Sutton and Gary Williams — as well as the Women’s category will be announced April 7 as part of the Final Four.