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Scott Howard-Cooper

Karl Malone (left) and Scotie Pippen are near locks for Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images

Malone, Pippen headline Hall of Fame nominees

Posted Nov 30 2009 11:40AM

Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen, superstar forwards who were part of dominating tandems that helped define the NBA in the 1990s, head the list of candidates for the 2010 class of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Nominations closed Monday with Malone and Pippen as the only locks for induction next summer amid a list that includes Dennis Rodman and Mark Jackson as possibilities sure to spark strong debate. The original Dream Team, the 1992 U.S. Olympic squad that was the first to incorporate NBA players, would also seem to have a good chance for enshrinement because of the way the group influenced the development of basketball around the world.

Malone and Pippen, meanwhile, are the definition of first-ballot inductees, with the bonus of good timing as a reminder of their special places in league history. Power forward Malone and point guard John Stockton performed duets in a way few, if any, teammates have in the NBA to lead the Jazz and coach Jerry Sloan to a pair of West titles and three other trips to the conference finals in the 1990s, and now Malone is headed for Springfield a year after Sloan and Stockton got in.

Small forward Pippen was a superb complementary part to Michael Jordan as the Bulls won six championships in the decade, and now Pippen will get his chance to stand alone in Chicago glory a year after Jordan was enshrined.

Individually, Malone was a dominating physical presence during a 19-year career. The Mailman retired after 2003-04 as a Laker, the only season spent away from the Jazz. He finished as the league's second-leading scorer, a two-time MVP, a 14-time All-Star and a two-time Olympian who averaged 25 points and 10.1 rebounds in the NBA.

On his own, Pippen was a versatile wing who could win games on both ends of the court, a relative unknown when he left Central Arkansas in 1987 bound for seven All-Star appearances, eight first-team All-Defense selections, two Olympic gold medals and averages of 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 17 seasons with the Bulls, Rockets and Trail Blazers.

Among the other candidates, Warriors coach Don Nelson and former players Chris Mullin, Jamaal Wilkes and Bernard King should receive serious consideration along with Rodman and Jackson. The Nelson outcome will be particularly interesting. Nelson may pass Lenny Wilkens for No. 1 on the career coaching win list this season but, based on his two previous years as a finalist, may fall short in the secret election.

Dennis Johnson, Rudy Tomjanovich, Rick Pitino, Jerry Reinsdorf, Terry Cummings, Jerry Buss, Sarunas Marciulionis (with an extensive international background), Al Attles, Muggsy Bogues, Ralph Sampson (on the strength of a great college career), Tex Winter, current referee Dick Bavetta and former referee Darell Garretson are among the other nominees with strong NBA ties. Jim Valvano is a candidate from the college field and decorated coach Bobby Hurley Sr. from the high school ranks. Oscar Schmidt is an international candidate after five Olympics as a Brazilian scoring machine best known in the United States for his 46 points in the gold-medal victory in the 1987 Pan-American Games against an American squad with college stars David Robinson, Danny Manning and Pervis Ellison.

Nominees for the all-encompassing Hall must first pass through one of four screening committees, depending on their background: North American, international, women's game and veteran's. Anyone receiving five of a possible seven votes in the secret balloting will be announced as a finalist during All-Star weekend in February. Those candidates will then be judged by a 24-member honors committee of league executives, players who have already been enshrined and media representatives, with 18 votes needed for enshrinement.

The class of 2010 will be revealed at the men's Final Four in April.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.

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