In the event that some did not attend college, fans followed their high school path immediately to the NBA. Regardless of how the players got there, basketball fans paid attention.
For me, I can remember being in middle school and seeing a friend of mine with an Allen Iverson Georgetown jersey. Iverson was already one of my favorite players at the time, his play took care of itself, but seeing that jersey gave me something else to draw from. That was 16 years ago and it is something that I will never forget. That’s the thing that helps make sports so amazing. An event like that has stuck with me for over half of my life, and anyone connected to the game can say something similar as well.
Some people remember playing games in high school and trying to go behind-the-back and finish at the rim like Webber, or go hard to the rim on a fast break like T-Mac did on some poor soul in his high school days. They remember Yao Ming coming into the NBA with questions swirling around him and wondering if he would be worth a damn. Others can recall Steve Nash initially being behind two great point guards in Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd in Phoenix, and they may have been led to conclude that his road to NBA stardom was too daunting to travel.
This post is inspired from a conversation that took place between some respected folks on Twitter, as well as on The UC Show last night. It is easy to say certain players belong in the Hall of Fame, but what about the guys who are on the fringe, so to speak? What about players where a fan really has to get their hands dirty and be totally prepared to make a case for?
In this case, I have to use stats as a reference, despite the fact that stats are usually the last thing I want to reference to make a point. Stats make me sea-sick, but when it comes to the Hall of Fame, it takes more than simply knowledge and point-of-view to make a case; one has to use numbers as well.
Career stats: 20.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 48% FG
Other:’93-94 ROY, five-time All Star, one time All-NBA first team, three-time All-NBA second team
If it was up to me, Chris Webber would be in the Hall. At the same time, I’m a Chris Webber Apologist, a Stanley, so my opinion of him is extremely biased. He was a focal point for the turnaround of the Sacramento Kings in the late-90s and 2000s. I can see how people say he isn’t a Hall of Famer, but when you look at his career as a whole, he has a puncher’s chance.
Plus, an argument can be made that he was the best power forward in basketball at a time when the position was absolutely loaded. The man could rebound as well as any big and he was unquestionably the best passing power forward in the game.
Career stats: 20.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 43% FG
Other: two-time scoring champ, 00-01 Most Improved Player, seven-time All Star, two-time All-NBA first team, three-time All NBA second team
What’s real: at one time, Tracy McGrady was what that was. There was a time when the man was a top-three NBA player and it’s tough, if not impossible, to dispute this, whether you like McGrady or not. What's also real is, to paraphrase Ed, he has some of the worst luck in the history of mankind.
Injuries and bad matchups can be attributed to his lack of postseason success, but even the most die-hard McGrady apologists (me included) can only go so far with those two, especially the latter. There’s still time for McGrady to make a push to solidify his resume and in turn, it will contribute to a case being made that he’s a candidate for the Hall. He’s only 31 and if he can find the fountain of youth, the right team, and most important, the right training staff, his case goes from an “I don’t know” to an “Absolutely.”
Career stats: 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 52% FG, 83% FT, 1.9 blocks
Other: eight-time All Star, two-time All NBA second team
Yao Ming is underappreciated, plain and simple. The man was a monster on the block, a problem outside of the paint, and if you fouled him, he could make you pay at the line. Once the Big Homie (Shaq) started to decline, Yao became the best center in basketball and he showed it on a nightly basis. The thing that hurts Yao’s case is lack of playoff success, but that’s more due to injuries than anything else.
His global impact on the game should not be taken for granted either. His country literally helped Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady start in All Star games. Sure, they were nice on their own, but let’s not downplay the logic that them playing with Yao helped them start in these games.
Career stats: 14.6 points, 8.5 assists, 49% FG, 43% 3PT, 90% FT
Other: two-time NBA MVP, seven-time All Star, three-time All NBA first team, two-time All NBA second team, all-time leader in FT%, led league in assists five times.
Nash’s career can be broken down into two parts: 96-04 and 04-present. The first part of his career was cool. He was dope and all, but once he moved back to Phoenix in 2004, he became a monster. It’s amazing to see the impact he’s had for the Suns franchise, and despite the fact that his team has been in constant movement due to injuries, questionable front office moves, and the Lakers/Spurs monopoly in the Western Conference, he’s always managed to produce and make players better.
On top of that, a case can be made that he never really stopped being the best point guard in basketball. It won’t be made by me, but I certainly understand the folks who believe he’s the best in the game and has been for the past 6-7 years. Oh yeah, the man has won the MVP twice. You do that, and you’re a Hall of Famer; period.
There are other candidates we can mention, but for the sake of time, we’ll stop here. Despite all of their brilliance on the court, none of these guys have a ring. How much of an effect should it have on their standing when it comes to an honor of this magnitude?
In my opinion, it doesn’t have any, and when you look at the teams and dynasties that were in their respective paths, plus the fact that the NBA isn’t exactly the most trustworthy entity in sports, it’s totally understandable why they don’t. I’m just glad I have been able to see all of these players at their best.
Thanks to Basketball Reference (dot) com for the stats.