When it comes to the world of North American professional sports and their respective Hall of Fame shrines, NBA basketball is the only one of the four major sports that does not have a specific designation for its players. While this is all well and good, criteria for entry into the basketball HOF includes how a player/coach performed or contributed during their time in college, international and women's divisions, not necessarily limited to their level of play and success in the NBA.
There are a lot of members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame that have been inducted based on their contributions outside of the National Basketball Association and although they should be applauded for their efforts, when you compare their resume to some of the other talent that has been enshrined in Springfield Massachusetts, they seem to slightly stick out. On the flip side, there are a number of players who have graced NBA arenas over the years and continue to be stuck on the waiting list or forever sit along the sidelines on the outside looking in.
Would it be proper for the NBA to create their own Hall of Fame? Would it devalue what James Naismith envisioned for the game? Would it discredit the efforts of the men and women around the world who put their blood, sweat and tears into the game, or could it work in harmony with the Naismith memorial? Why couldn't we honor our heroes in two different ceremonies, one for their professional efforts and one for their international achievements. Until such a venture takes place, there are a few players who may or may not be rightfully cemented in the basketball Hall Of Fame.
15 Does - Horace Grant
Known mostly for his goggles and as a member of the Chicago Bulls first three-peat, Horace Grant was an unheralded member of the Bulls dynasty. During his seven years in The Windy City, Grant was the blue collar worker that helped make life easier for Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. It was during this time that Grant would be named to his only All-Star team and be honored twice on the All-Defensive club. After leaving Chicago in the summer of 94', Grant would team up with Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway to lead the Orlando Magic to their first NBA Finals appearance, while collecting two more All-Defensive team awards.
Following a short stop in Seattle and a memorable playoff run with the 2000-01 Lakers in which Grant collected his fourth championship ring, the Augusta, Georgia native would return for a troubled stint in Orlando before finishing out his career with the hyped 2003-04 Lakers backing up Karl Malone in a failed effort to capture his fifth ring and the Lakers fourth straight title.
Although he was never a focal point on any of the four teams he played with, Grant provided a valuable role at the power forward position, being able to defend any of the forward spots, while pulling down quality rebounds and consistently hitting the mid-range elbow jumper. People may question his inclusion in the Hall of Fame, but there are players who have been entered with a lot less success to their name.
14 Doesn't - Mitch Richmond
A member of the Run TMC (possibly the best nickname in basketball history) trio during his time with the Golden State Warriors in the late 80s/early 90s, Mitch Richmond quickly became popular with hoops fans as he teamed up with Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin to pilot Don Nelson's high octane offence. For whatever reason, the Warriors felt that Billy Owens would be a better fit with the club and traded Richmond to Sacramento in order to acquire the former Syracuse forward.
Regardless, Richmond would go on to find personal success with the Kings as he became a six-time All Star and a constant 20+ PPG threat. While the Kings would struggle in the Western Conference, Richmond was acknowledged for his efforts and named as a member of Dream Team III.
After seven years in California, Richmond would spend the next three years as a member of the Washington Wizards where he would not only continue to miss out on the playoffs but also find personal struggles with his once pure shooting touch. With one final season as a member of the 2001-02 LA Lakers, Richmond would capture his only NBA Championship, but in a mostly irrelevant role. Seeing only four minutes of action in two games during the playoff run was a far cry from the elite level that many were used to seeing from The Rock. Sure he dropped over 20,000 points and has a handful of individual and international team honors to his name, but it's the minimal postseason success that impacts his HOF value.
13 Does - Jack Sikma
17,000 points and 10,000 rebounds. Not bad, considering that for the first four years of his career, the big man would come off the bench for the Seattle SuperSonics. You may also want to take note that in his first two years in the league, the Sonics made back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals, including a championship run in 1978-79.
Sikma's contribution during those two playoff years? 13.7 PPG and 8.1 RPG in his rookie season and then increased it as Seattle captured their only league championship the next season with 14.8 PPG and 11.7 RPG. Oh and remember, Sikma didn't come from a big name college program before stepping on to an NBA court, one that would provide him with the teachings and competition that would prepare him for dealing with the next level. A rare success story from a NCAA Div III school, Sikma was a four year star at little-known Illinois Wesleyan. After being named a seven-time All-Star in Seattle, Sikma would go on to finish his career with the Milwaukee Bucks. Need another reason why Sikma should be in the Hall of Fame? Maybe because his numbers and team success is better than Yao Ming and Chris Mullin, two players who have been honored.
12 Doesn't - Yao Ming
Yao Ming's contributions to the North American game may have been ground breaking for the Asian population and market, but from a statistical and honors standpoint, the former Houston Rocket falls short of the bar set by many big men before him. It's not that nine years with averages of 19 and 9.2 are something to scoff at, but there are others who can stake the same claim and have not been honored.
During his nine year career, it was only in his first three years that Yao played relatively healthy, but from that point forward, The Ming Dynasty would miss a significant chunk of games for the remainder of his career, including the entire 2009-10 season and 77 games in the 2010-11 campaign. Now not to be controversial, because as we all know American born players have been acknowledged by the All-Star votes even when they're hurt (see Kobe Bryant), but it's interesting to note that Yao was voted as an All Star in every season he took the court, whether he played 82 games, 55 games or even just five games. Talk about fan influence. Could Yao have been a great player in the NBA, the chances are highly probable and had he been healthy it seemed like he could have been named in the same talks as Patrick Ewing, but as with the New York Knicks big man, his lack of team success, combined with his short-lived career is something that plays against Ming's placement in the Hall Of Fame, at least from a statistical standpoint.
11 Does - Toni Kukoč
As a member of the Chicago Bulls second three-peat and with a Sixth Man of the Year award in his pocket, Toni Kukoč had a successful NBA career, but it was his international contribution and honors that should be considered for why Kukoc should be inducted into the Naismith Hall Of Fame.
Yao may have the Asian market cornered, but in the early 90s, you would be hard pressed to find a more valuable player in the International, European or Yugoslavian leagues. Whether he was representing Croatia or Yugoslavia, Kukoc was a vital component of his international team. With two silver Olympic medals, a gold and a bronze World Championship medals and a handful of European hardware in his trophy case, Kukoc was one of the most honored international players during the early 90s.
While his individual numbers in the NBA were never mind-blowing, with only 9,000 points (11.6 PPG), 3,500 rebounds (4.2 RPG) and 3,100 assists (3.7 APG), Kukoc proved to be valuable in a role off of the bench. Standing at 6'11", many figured Kukoc to be stuck down in the paint, but The Waiter often found himself on the perimeter acting as a distributor or instigator of the offense. Most will remember Kukoc as a Chicago Bull, but after his first six and half seasons, the Croatian Sensation would finish his career spending time in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Milwaukee.
10 Doesn't - Bernard King
Spike Lee will have a fit over this one, but Bernard King was Carmelo Anthony before Melo donned his first pair of high tops. Yes, he was a prolific scorer and yes he was a multiple time All-Star and All-NBA Team member, but other than that what did he do? If Mark Aquirre hasn't been acknowledged by the committee, who has more points and rings than King, why did the New Yorker get voted int? If Tom Chambers hasn't gotten into the Hall Of Fame with over 20,000 points, why did King, who is short of the milestone? Did King make it in because he played in a bigger market than Chambers?
We know that there has often been an East Coast bias due to time zones and TV schedules for fans and media to take in games. Throw in the fact that King played less than 1,000 games in his career, one that spanned 14 years in which the Brooklyn native only appeared in 82 games twice. While credit should be given to King for returning to the game after suffering a torn ACL, which during that era of sport was extremely difficult and uncommon to return from, it doesn't take away from the other seasons in which King was out because of other injuries.
9 Does - Shawn Kemp
There is a good chance that Gary Payton would not have reached his personal successes in Seattle without The Reign Man as his running mate. Next to the The Glove, Kemp was, and is without question, the most popular player to ever wear a Sonics uniform.
After a rookie season in which he played 13.8 minutes per game, Kemp quickly found himself as part of the starting five for most of the next seasons and throughout the remainder of this time in The Emerald City (and in Cleveland). As one of the most popular players during the era of the 90s, Kemp collected over 10,000 of his career total 15,000+ points and nearly 6,000 of his 8,834 rebounds.
Garnering five of his six All-Star selections while in Seattle, Kemp was a major reason why the Sonics were a Western Conference threat and could have very well been the NBA Finals MVP during the classic 1995-96 battle with the Chicago Bulls. Unfortunately for Kemp, one of the major keys to his lack of Hall Of Fame acknowledgment could be the weight, alcohol and drug abuse demons he battled during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic.
8 Doesn't - Calvin Murphy
Again, another case of why one player gets credited into the Hall Of Fame with lesser individual stats and awards than others who have been left on the doorstep. At a shade under 18,000 points on his career, which is a great accomplishment no matter which way you look at it, and an average of 4.4 assists per game, Murphy was great despite being one of the smallest players in the league throughout his career.
Spending his entire thirteen years in the NBA with the Rockets franchise (San Diego and Houston), Murphy would help pilot the club to a spot in the 1980-81 NBA Finals and a handful of playoff appearances, but the team would fall short each time out. Standing all of 5'9", Murphy was one of the smallest players to ever be named to the NBA All-Star game and was often the smallest on the court. Despite his diminutive stature, Murphy found a way to average at least 20 points per game five times in his career. The question becomes, if Murphy was say 6'4"-6'8" and posted the same numbers, would he have been honored by as one of the greats of the game?
7 Does - Chris Webber
He may not have a championship ring, but others in the Hall Of Fame are without a piece of finger jewelry as well. If part of the credentials for the enshrinement include impact on the game, then look no further to a player who influenced and changed the game during the late 90s as part of Michigan Wolverines' Fab Five.
While Chris Webber had a difference of opinions with Don Nelson during his first season in Golden State, he would showcase enough talent to receive the Rookie of the Year award. For the next three seasons, Webber would embark on a roller coaster ride as a member of the Washington Wizards, but would still be acknowledged by the All-Star team committee.
It wasn't until Webber was traded to the Sacramento Kings that he would return to the same style of play that made him a beloved member of the Fab Five as he brought the Kings to within a sniff of the Western Conference Championship, a quest that would come up short.
Despite his shortcomings to win a championship, Webber helped put Sacramento on the basketball map and was part of one of the most exciting teams of its era. After the Kings dismantled their roster in 2005, Webber would finish his career bouncing between Philadelphia, Detroit and eventually capping his career off where it all began, in Oakland. If a player like Yao Ming has been honored by the Naismith Hall Of Fame, so to should C-Webb, who whether it be collegiate or pro, had just as much success.
6 Doesn't - Sarunas Marciulionis
Consider Sarunas Marciulionis to be the smaller, Lithuanian version of Yao Ming. Sure he was a pioneer for his homeland and did wonders as part of the international game, but unlike Yao, Marciulionis did not have a significant impact on the NBA level.
Some may remember the forward as the forgotten member of the Golden State Warriors trio of Run TMC, a time in which Marciulionis came off the bench as a sixth man to spell either Mitch Richmond or Chris Mullin.
Playing in only 363 NBA games and a span of seven seasons with four teams, there was very little that Marciulionis contributed to the NBA game. Starting his North American rookie year at the age of 25, we can credit his wonky knees for the short-lived NBA career. Only once did Marciulionis tally more than 1,000 points in a season, which came in his third year with the Golden State Warriors. There is no question of his value towards the international game as Marciulionis was one of the leaders of the Soviet Union and Lithuanian National teams, but it may have been better to just have honored him with the FIBA Hall Of Fame award.
5 Does - Tom Chambers
20,000 points is usually the measuring stick for the Hall Of Fame. Unless you have hardware as a suitable replacement. However, for whatever reasons, Tom Chambers buckets haven't deemed worthy of an enshrinement. Standing 6'11", whether it was from the inside, outside or on the transition, Chambers found a way to score with the best of them.
Starting his career as a rookie with the then-San Diego Clippers in 1981, Chambers would become more well known for his time with the Seattle SuperSonics and the Phoenix Suns, a period of time in which the big man would be recognized for his talents and named to four All-Star teams. After leaving the Suns following the 1993 season, Chambers would spend four more years splitting time between Israel and the NBA. Over the course of his sixteen seasons of professional basketball, Chambers was a one of a kind player, a big man with small man athleticism and a knack for putting the ball in the basket. To date, Chambers remains the only player in NBA history with over 20,000 points on his resume to be absent from the list of the Naismith Hall of Fame.
4 Doesn't - Ralph Sampson
If you only counted his career in Houston, Ralph Sampson may have been one of the top big men the NBA has seen. However, that would only amount to four of his ten seasons in the league, most of which were hampered by injuries.
After claiming the NBA Rookie Of The Year, many expected great things from the big man from Virginia. Lofty claims of being the next Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were quickly vanquished as Sampson's career would hit a downward spiral after his third season when injuries started to take their toll. Sampson, who played and started all 82 games in each of his first two seasons, would never play a complete schedule again. During his nine year career, Sampson would only play in a total of 456 games with 7,000 points and 4,000 boards, not really totals that justify a spot among the game's greatest players.
3 Does - Michael Cooper
Sometimes individual stats do not make the man and yet at the same time, nobody wants to give credit to a guy who rides the coattails of others. Michael Cooper was neither. Sure his numbers do not stand out with averages of nine points, three rebounds and four assists, but it was what he did away from the ball that made his contributions to the LA Lakers "Showtime" dynasty so invaluable.
As one of the best defensive players in team and league history, Coop was part of the second unit that would come in and shut down the opposition. Named to the league's All-Defensive Team eight times during his career, Cooper was also honored with the Defensive Player of the Year in 1986-87, even though he played a secondary role. With five championship rings to his credit, Coop was one of the most respected Lakers in team history.
Following his time in LA, Cooper would take his knowledge and experience of the game and turn that into a well-respected coaching role, whether as an assistant coach in the NBA or as a head coach in the NBA D-League, NCAA or WNBA. You can also find the former guard/forward's name in the basketball record books as the only individual to be able to claim hoisting a NBA, NBA D-League and WNBA championship trophy, either as a player or a coach.
2 Doesn't - Chris Mullin
The second member of Run TMC (why hasn't Tim Hardaway received any love?), Chris Mullin was a poor man's version of Larry Bird. Never to be confused with a great defensive stopper, it was on the other end of the court that the St. John's alumni could definitely fill the peach basket.
Known mostly for his time with the Golden State Warriors, it wasn't until his third season that Mullin started to shine due to a battle with the bottle. It was during the period between 1988-93 that Mullin would reach All-Star levels. Sometimes referred to as the Larry Bird of the West, Mullin would soon join The Hick From French Lick as a member of the Indiana Pacers, where Bird served as a coach and GM. As part of the Pacers second unit, Mullin would reach his only NBA Finals, falling to the LA Lakers in 2000.
If you took away Mullin's NCAA and international success, basically what you were left with was a short-term star level player who was never the focal point, but rather a cog in the machine.
1 Does - Mark Aguirre
Two rings, three All-Star honors, 18,000+ points, 20 PPG, 4,500+ rebounds, 5 RPG, 2,800+ assists, 3.1 APG, all in the span of thirteen years.
Those seem like Hall Of Fame worthy numbers do they not? Need more? What about being named an All-American twice during his career at the University of DePaul and being the first overall draft pick in 1981. What about being named the UPI, AP, USBWA, Adolph Rupp and Naismith College Player of the Year?
While a lot of his scoring came during his seven and a half years with the Dallas Mavericks, it was because he was willing to blend in and take a role with the Pistons that his individual numbers suffered, but his team success was greater. Teaming up with Vinnie Johnson to lead Detroit's bench crew, Aguirre sacrificed his personal accolades so that Dennis Rodman, who fit the defensive stopper that the opening five needed, could be inserted into the starting lineup. Unlike a traditional small forward, Aguirre found the majority of his buckets in the transition, mid-range and post up options, rather than from beyond the three-point line. He may not have been the leader of the Bad Boys, but it wasn't until Mark came on board that they collected their two championship rings.