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Monday, May 17, 2021

The 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Class Includes Chris Bosh, Bob Dandridge, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace, and Chris Webber

The announcement of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class traditionally takes place during Final Four weekend, but for the second year in a row that was not the case. Last year, the Hall of Fame announcement took place in a socially-distanced setting after the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the announcement took place just one day after the delayed induction ceremony for the Class of 2020.

The Class of 2021 includes five players who are being inducted primarily because of their NBA careers: Chris Bosh, Bob Dandridge, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace, and Chris Webber. Toni Kukoc--who had a very good but not great NBA career--is also being inducted, but he was selected by the international committee. Rick Adelman, Cotton Fitzsimmons, and Bill Russell are being inducted because of their NBA coaching careers. Russell joins John Wooden, Bill Sharman, Lenny Wilkens, and Tommy Heinsohn as the only people inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame as players and as coaches. Two-time NCAA champion Jay Wright is being inducted as a college coach, while Lauren Jackson and Yolanda Griffith are being inducted as WNBA players. Clarence Jenkins is being inducted as an Early African-American pioneer, Val Ackerman is being inducted because of her service as WNBA Commissioner, and Howard Garfinkel is being inducted as the founder of the legendary Five-Star basketball camp. Pearl Moore is being inducted as the selection of the Women’s Veterans Committee.

I first wrote about Dandridge in the October 2004 issue of Basketball Digest. In my article about the 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, I implored the Hall of Fame voters to do right by Dandridge: "I enjoyed watching the 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony and I learned some things about various inductees that I did not know, but I also feel bad for players like Bob Dandridge who have seemingly been forgotten. Dandridge was a two-way player who performed a key role for two NBA championship teams (1971 Bucks, 1978 Bullets). Will Dandridge have to wait to be inducted posthumously like Braun was this year and like Roger Brown was in 2013?" 

During the past two decades, I have specifically mentioned several players who deserve Hall of Fame recognition--including Roger Brown, Mel Daniels, Artis Gilmore, Spencer Haywood, and Bob Dandridge--and I am delighted that each of them has finally received the honor that they earned with their high-level playing careers. Sadly, Brown was inducted posthumously, but Daniels, Gilmore, Haywood, and Dandridge survived long enough to know that they had been officially tapped for basketball immortality. 

Bosh's career was on a Hall of Fame trajectory even before he joined forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami, but playing a key role on two championship teams solidified his status. Similarly, Pierce was likely headed to the Hall of Fame prior to 2008, but winning the Finals MVP for a stacked Boston team ensured that he would be inducted. Wallace's career path is remarkable, starting with being an undrafted player from an HBCU and then culminating with being the heart and soul of Detroit's 2004 championship team. Along the way, Wallace won four Defensive Player of the Year awards, tying Dikembe Mutombo's record (the honor has been handed out annually since the 1982-83 season). 

Webber is an interesting and complex case. The Basketball Hall of Fame honors accomplishments at all levels of the sport, and Webber performed at a high level in high school, college, and the NBA. However, he played on talented teams that failed to win NCAA and NBA titles in no small part due either to him failing in clutch moments and/or just being outperformed by the best player on the opposing team. That is not to suggest that winning a championship should be a prerequisite for Hall of Fame induction, but when the best player on talented teams repeatedly falls short on the biggest stage that raises eyebrows. When Webber retired from the NBA, I did not rank him as a Hall of Famer

Further, although there is not a specific or official character requirement for Hall of Fame induction--and many current Hall of Famers might be ruled out if there were--it is worth noting that Webber pleaded guilty in federal district court to one count of criminal contempt after he lied about receiving money from disgraced "booster" Ed Martin. As a result of Martin's testimony that he provided more than $200,000 in cash and gifts to Webber prior to Webber joining the NBA, Webber's individual NCAA honors and awards were vacated, as were University of Michigan's Final Four appearances in 1992 and 1993. The NCAA also forbade the University of Michigan from having any official association with Webber for 10 years (that ban expired in 2013). 

Advocates for Webber's induction who claim to be baffled by why it took several years for him to be tapped are being disingenuous at best; he was never the best player at his position in the NBA, he did not win a championship in college or the NBA, and his actions brought disrepute on both his name and his school's name. Considering the backlog of clearly worthy players who were not inducted until the past few years--including several names mentioned above--it is hardly an injustice that Webber was not selected until now.

All of that being said, I understand the arguments in Webber's favor, including his multidimensional skill set, and his impressive statistics: purely from the standpoint of individual statistics, Webber had a better career than fellow 2021 inductee Dandridge, and Webber's statistics are also better than other players who have previously been inducted. 

The Basketball Hall of Fame may be more subjective and secretive about its selection process than any of the other Halls of Fame for the major North American sports. It is obvious that Kukoc did not have a Hall of Fame-caliber NBA career, but he was selected based on his international career. What "decoder ring" is used to translate international statistics, awards, and team success to compare them with NBA statistics, awards, and team success? In other words--and to cite a specific example--how was it determined that Dino Radja deserved induction many years before Dandridge? I am not suggesting that Radja is not worthy--he is considered one of the greatest FIBA players of all-time--but I am just emphasizing that having one Hall of Fame tasked with recognizing the NBA, the NCAA, the women's game, the Early African-American pioneers, the international game, etc. is a situation that will inevitably lead to inequities and snubs. 

The coaching selections are also difficult to understand at times. Russell won two titles as an NBA coach, but he was also the best player on those teams, and he had already won nine titles as a player before becoming a coach. The teams Russell coached for which he did not play were not particularly successful, and he last coached in the NBA more than 30 years ago, so he did not have some recent coaching accomplishment that suddenly merits recognition. This feels a bit like a lifetime achievement award. I must emphasize that I am 100% in favor of honoring Russell; he has become an underrated player in the sense that he should be mentioned in every "GOAT" conversation but he is often cast aside as pundits narrow their field of vision to just Michael Jordan and LeBron James. However, it might make more sense to honor Russell as a contributor than as a coach. On the other hand, he was the first African-American coach to win an NBA title, so maybe the reality is that as a pioneer he is receiving overdue recognition for breaking barriers. 

Adelman and Fitzsimmons both rank highly on the all-time wins list, and both did not win an NBA title. Both also coached their final NBA games many years ago. Again, maybe this is just an example of overdue recognition being belatedly bestowed. There are not written (or even unwritten) rules regarding what it takes to be a Hall of Famer, so the process is by definition subjective. Adelman and Fitzsimmons are worthy candidates; I just don't understand the process in terms of who is selected, who is bypassed, who is honored while still actively coaching (such as Jay Wright), and who is not recognized until decades after retiring (or, in Fitzsimmons' case, 17 years after he passed away and over 20 years after he stopped coaching). 

The Hall of Fame has inducted approximately 400 people and teams from various categories in over 60 years, so I disagree with the notion that the Hall of Fame is "watered down"; if anything, worthy pro basketball players have been left out because of the Hall of Fame's determination to honor a broad spectrum of basketball accomplishments instead of focusing on pro basketball. The creation of a separate pro basketball Hall of Fame--perhaps with automatic, retroactive induction of all pro basketball players already inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame so that efforts moving forward would be focused on players who have been ignored--would be beneficial, but as long as the NBA is partnering with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame it seems unlikely that the league would participate in creating an entity that would might appear to be competing for the attention and money of basketball fans.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:34 AM



At Monday, May 17, 2021 6:50:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Basketball hof way to easy to get in

Nfl and mlb is as well but its still alot harder than basketball hof

If u dont have 8 or more all star games u shouldnt get in to me

At least 5 all nba teams as well

It should be the best of the best

Nba needs its own hall of fame asap

Cause kevin love demarr derozan

Lamarcus aldridge joe Johnson blake griffin will get in and none are real hofamers

As far as chris webber

Based on criteria he deserves it

5 all stars
5 all nba
17k points

Chris mullin had similar resume

His resume better than mo cheeks or bobby dandridge

Who both are in sidney moncrief as well

So based on criteria he belongs in

If u get 4 to 6 all stars

3 all nba

About 15k points

Ur a hof canidate

It dont take much

At Tuesday, May 18, 2021 2:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't think that the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the Baseball Hall of Fame are easy to get into, because I can think of worthy players in both sports who had to wait a long time before being selected.

Basketball is different because the other sports have professional halls of fame, but the NBA does not have its own Hall of Fame even though college basketball and other forms of basketball have separate Halls of Fame. There should be a pro basketball hall of fame for the NBA, ABA, and other top notch North American basketball leagues.

I don't think that any of the guys you mentioned are locks--I could see some of them having to wait a while, or possibly not even be selected--but you may be right that they will all get in eventually.

Mullin and Webber are both close calls to me. I am not upset that Webber is in, but I also was not upset when he was not selected. Mullin won the Wooden Award (Player of the Year), so you could argue that he had a better college career than Webber. You are correct that their NBA awards/accomplishments are comparable. Webber was so bad in the clutch that it lowers the weight that I place on his numbers, but I understand why the voters chose him.

I wouldn't base HoF voting just on All-Star selections or All-NBA selections, because there are players like Earl Monroe and Pete Maravich who are clearly deserving even though they don't meet the criteria that you mentioned. Monroe played on championship teams in college and the pros, and his unique style of play inspired a whole generation. Maravich set so many college records that he would be in the HoF even if he never played in the NBA, but I also think that he and Monroe would clearly belong in an NBA or Pro Basketball Hall of Fame; you can't tell the story of pro basketball without mentioning them.


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