SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Hall of Fame voters are big on patience. That much is apparent regarding the few details known about the secret panels that rule on enshrinement, a notion increasingly clear with the Class of 2012 that included Reggie Miller being inducted after not even making it to the finalist stage the year before, the same circuitous route Dennis Rodman took in 2011, and Don Nelson, Jamaal Wilkes and Ralph Sampson making it after lengthy waits.
This bodes well for the many in line. Hall chairman Jerry Colangelo has made reversing past oversights a priority, the ABA and the Early African-American Pioneers committees have been added to guarantee election for at least two candidates away from the game for decades, and the group that was celebrated Friday night was all about the waiting.
The continued relevance of the trend heading toward the Class of 2013 is the expectation that Gary Payton will be the only virtual first-ballot lock among players with strong NBA ties. That’s a lot of opportunity to fill out a field. Although there is no set number of inductees required annually, voters in the North American Committee could easily see the lack of superstars among new nominees as the latest chance to address the past.
I did a Most Deserving Candidates list in April, after the Class of 2012 was announced. The rankings will change early in the regular season, after the 2013 nominations are announced, with Payton likely the new No. 1 and other tweaks expected after further consideration, but the short version for now:
1. Bernard King, North American Committee.
2. Jerry Krause, Contributor.
3. Mark Jackson, North American.
4. Tim Hardaway, North American.
5. Bobby Jones, ABA.
6. Mitch Richmond, North American.
7. Maurice Cheeks, North American.
8. George McGinnis, ABA.
9. Rick Pitino, North American.
10. Slick Leonard, ABA.
Also considered: Vlade Divac (International), Bill Fitch (North American), Dick Motta (North American), Ron Boone (ABA), Rudy Tomjanovich (North American).
Again, those are the candidates with NBA connections, and an ABA nominee is definitely going in through a direct election, without the same layered screening process as others in the general North American field. It is also possible that nominees from the college game will have a strong presence and cost NBAers support.
But based on the last two years, based on the push by Colangelo, and certainly based on Friday night at Symphony Hall, patience has an important place in the voting. The early indication, with no surge of several automatics appearing to be on the way, is that will be true again in 2013.