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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Roger Brown is Finally Elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame!

The "Rajah" has ascended to his rightful throne; the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's ABA Committee selected Roger Brown as a member of the Hall's 2013 Class. Brown joins fellow ABA Unsung Heroes Artis Gilmore and Mel Daniels (Brown's Indiana Pacer teammate on three ABA championship teams), who were selected by the ABA Committee in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Brown long ago earned the respect of his peers and of knowledgeable basketball observers--which means more than the bleatings of "stat gurus" or the shamefully wrong verdicts dispensed by previous Hall of Fame voters--but it is still wonderful to see basketball justice served and Brown welcomed into basketball's most exclusive fraternity.

Years ago I asked Daniels to describe Brown's skills and Daniels replied: "I think you could sum it up simply like this. Those who did not see Roger Brown or didn't know him, missed a treat...We ran an isolation play for him and he was so good one-on-one that I remember defenders actually screaming for help. He actually dislocated or broke eight guys' ankles…I think that Michael Jordan is the best basketball player I have ever seen or one of the best. Roger Brown was right there in his class."

Julius Erving entered the ABA in 1971-72, one season after Brown made the All-ABA First Team. Erving viewed Brown as a role model: "His depth of knowledge made him someone who I wanted to watch and also watch out for. I was just running and jumping and trying to jump over people and (it helped) just to see what he was doing on the ground, knowing that he was a great jumper in his day but that by this time he had channeled his energies to be a complete player, be a team player and win championships. So he was already at a place that I was trying to get to."

Brown played a key role in the "Interstate 65 rivalry" that pitted the Indiana Pacers versus the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA version of the Boston Celtics versus the L.A. Lakers; the Pacers and Colonels faced each other twice in the ABA Finals, they appeared in the ABA Finals a total of eight times combined and they won four of the league's nine championships. For quite some time the only participant in that rivalry who the Basketball Hall of Fame welcomed was Kentucky's Dan Issel, who spent most of his pro career in the NBA but in recent years Kentucky Coach Hubie Brown has been recognized by the Hall of Fame as a Contributor (2005), followed by the inductions of players Gus Johnson (2010; he spent most of his career starring in the NBA before making a key contribution to Indiana's 1973 championship team as a reserve), Gilmore, Daniels and now Brown. Pacer Coach Bobby "Slick" Leonard should be the next ABA figure honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame; Indiana players George McGinnis (the 1975 ABA regular season co-MVP with Erving, his eventual NBA teammate in Philadelphia) and Freddie Lewis (the 1972 ABA Playoff MVP) deserve Hall of Fame consideration as well. This is Roger Brown's moment in the sun, though, so the discussions/debates about future Hall of Fame elections can be saved for another day.

Brown performed with elegance, he came up big in the biggest games--he and Erving share the ABA playoff single game scoring record (53 points)--and he made the most of his professional basketball career despite having several prime years stolen from him because of unfounded allegations about being associated with the infamous Jack Molinas (Connie Hawkins, another player who lost prime years of his career because of the same unfounded allegations, played in both the ABA and the NBA and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992). Brown died of cancer in 1997 but at least his family now has the peace of mind that Brown's place in basketball history has been formally acknowledged.

Jerry Colangelo, the Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board, should be greatly commended for making good on his promise that the Hall of Fame Will Recognize Worthy Players Who Have "Slipped Through the Cracks." I passionately believe that ABA Numbers Should Also Count and I have said for many years that Brown, Daniels and Gilmore deserved to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. I am not seeking any credit for the Hall of Fame honors that Gilmore, Daniels and Brown fully earned with their high quality play but I hope that my advocacy on their behalf had some impact.

Further Reading:

Interview with Ted Green, Producer of "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story"

"Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story"

Roger Brown: Ankle Breaker and Shot Maker

Overlooked and Underrated: Four Fabulous Forwards Three of the four players I profiled in this article are now members of the Basketball Hall of Fame: Maurice Stokes (class of 2004), Scottie Pippen (class of 2010) and Roger Brown (class of 2013); Mark Aguirre is perhaps a fringe Hall of Fame candidate but he is unquestionably underrated and his combined collegiate/professional resume is stronger than many people may realize (consensus NCAA Player of the Year in 1980, three-time NBA All-Star, 20.0 ppg career scoring average in 14 NBA seasons despite sacrificing his individual statistics while helping Detroit to win two NBA titles).

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:27 AM



At Thursday, March 27, 2014 12:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never saw Roger Brown play, and I think you're bang on about Mark Aguirre.


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