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Saturday, April 01, 2017

Krause, McGinnis, McGrady Among the 11 Newest Basketball Hall of Fame Members

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced that it will welcome 11 new members this fall: Zack Clayton, Nikos Galis, Robert Hughes, Mannie Jackson, Tom Jernstedt, Jerry Krause, Rebecca Lobo, George McGinnis, Tracy McGrady, Muffet McGraw and Bill Self. If several of those names are not familiar to you as an NBA fan, keep in mind that this is the Basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame (there is no such entity), and the Basketball Hall of Fame honors players, coaches, executives and contributors from around the world/all levels of the game.

This article will focus on the three new Hall of Famers who are most closely associated with pro basketball: Krause, McGinnis and McGrady.

Nearly four years ago, I asserted that Tracy McGrady is Clearly a Hall of Famer and shortly after that I followed up with another article making the Hall of Fame case for McGrady. The Hall of Fame voters agreed with me, selecting McGrady in his first year of eligibility. McGrady, who jumped straight to the NBA from high school, had a 15 year NBA career and he led the NBA in scoring twice (2003, 2004) in the middle of a seven year run during which he averaged at least 24.4 ppg each season while earning seven consecutive All-Star selections. During that period he played in at least 71 games five times but in the five seasons after that he played in just 66, 35, 30, 72 and 52 games (out of 66 in the lockout shortened 2011-12 campaign). By the age of 31 he was no longer a regular starter and by the age of 33 he had retired due to injuries.

During McGrady's brief, absolute peak, it was reasonable to compare him to Kobe Bryant and not be absolutely certain who was the better player--but, while Bryant was blessed with good health and thus able to sustain All-NBA First Team level dominance for an extended period, McGrady had a short run as an elite player and a slightly longer period (but not nearly as long a period as Bryant did) as one of the league's 10 best players. Some would argue that this is not enough to merit Hall of Fame induction but I perceive at least three categories of Hall of Fame players: Pantheon, Top 50, other great players. McGrady is not a Pantheon level player and at best he would be a fringe Top 50 player if objective voting were done today but McGrady is solidly in the top 75 or 80 players of all-time. There are not any particular statistical plateaus for pro basketball players that point to automatic Hall of Fame selection, nor should there be some arbitrary limit on how many players can be selected.

In contrast to McGrady's first ballot selection, Krause and McGinnis waited a long time to be selected. Jerry Colangelo, the Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, promised that under his watch the Hall of Fame will recognize individuals who have "slipped through the cracks" and that has been the case: he spearheaded the creation of a special ABA Committee that finally inducted ABA all-time greats Artis Gilmore, Mel Daniels, Roger Brown and Bobby "Slick" Leonard and Louie Dampier. That committee has been disbanded but its spirit remains, as indicated by the 2015 induction of Spencer Haywood and the 2016 induction of Zelmo Beaty.

McGinnis' career and prime were both shorter than McGrady's but McGinnis was the only Hall of Fame eligible NBA or ABA regular season MVP who had not been inducted. McGinnis shared 1975 ABA regular season MVP honors with Julius Erving, who two seasons later joined forces with McGinnis to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals. McGinnis played a key role for two Indiana ABA championship teams (1972, 1973), winning the ABA Playoff MVP in 1973. During the 1975 ABA playoffs, McGinnis averaged 32.3 ppg, 15.9 rpg and 8.2 apg while leading the Pacers to the Finals (their third Finals trip in McGinnis' four years with the franchise). McGinnis remains one of just four players who averaged 30 ppg, 7 rpg and 7 apg for an entire playoff season; pro basketball fans are on a first name basis with the other players: Oscar (who did it twice), Michael, LeBron (who has done it twice). Interestingly, all of those players won at least one championship but none of them won a title during his 30-7-7 postseason run.

McGinnis made the All-Star team six times--three in the ABA, three in the NBA--and at his peak he was as good as any player in either league. The one blemish on his resume is that he relied too much on his natural talent, so when his physical skills began to erode he did not adjust his game; he did not make the All-Star team after the age of 28 and by age 32 he was out of the league. Nevertheless, a player who is a key contributor for two championship teams (and two other Finalists) while winning a regular season MVP, a playoff MVP and a scoring title deserves Hall of Fame induction--not to mention the fact that he was also a dominant, record setting collegiate player.

It is always poignant and bittersweet when someone whose Hall of Fame induction was long overdue is not honored until after he passes away, a fate that also befell the aforementioned Roger Brown and Zelmo Beaty. Jerry Krause built six Chicago Bulls championship teams in the 1990s, so it is odd that he was not inducted in the Hall of Fame years ago; instead, he received the honor less than two weeks after passing away at the age of 77. I was as baffled and upset as anyone by Krause's haste and glee to break up the Bulls so that he could try to build another championship team from scratch but Krause deserves a lot of credit for hiring Phil Jackson as coach and for acquiring key players Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, B.J. Armstrong, Bill Cartwright, Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman. An NBA executive's job is to win games and championships; by that standard, Krause is one of the most accomplished executives in pro basketball history.

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posted by David Friedman @ 9:24 PM



At Tuesday, April 04, 2017 12:18:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

I was looking forward to seeing your thoughts on McGinnis. He's one of the most fun "what if he played today" candidates in my mind, as it's unlikely he'd still be playing on his diet of whiskey, steaks, and cigars, and likely would have been even better (or at least had a longer prime).

He'd also absolutely feast against the more spread out modern defenses either way.

At Tuesday, April 04, 2017 10:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

McGrady overrated, though has good shoes. Played with another HOFer for several years and still never won a playoff series. He was a popular guy to root for, for most people instead of Kobe. Each had similar games, but the similarities end there.

At Wednesday, April 05, 2017 12:17:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Are you the same Anonymous who pumps up James "Losing in the First Round is my Middle Name" Harden?

Without looking it up, do you even know how many playoff series McGrady and Yao played in together as teammates? The correct answer is two. Both players were injury prone by the time they teamed up and one or both was usually injured by the time the playoffs rolled around.

McGrady is without question a HoF caliber player and the committee correctly voted him in on the first ballot. McGrady was an elite scorer and passer, an excellent rebounder for his position and for most of his career he was an above average to excellent defensive player (particularly early in his career, before the injuries hit).

At Wednesday, April 05, 2017 2:32:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Anonymous, Orlando-era T-Mac and Kobe matchups were exciting because they were the only times in recent memory I can think of where elite, in-their-prime players who were evenly matched in skill set went against each other. You can find a YouTube video documenting their one-on-one showdowns. They seem pretty evenly matched around 2002 and 2003 to me, though Kobe obviously takes over after that.

At Wednesday, April 05, 2017 5:27:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I'll join the chorus here:

Apex T-Mac was pretty Pantheon-esque, he just had a very short apex. At his best, he was a near-perfect basketball player at his position.


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