By Vince Thomas, for NBA.com
Posted Sep 15 2009 10:12AM
Note to self: Don't cross Michael Jordan. Don't even look at MJ the wrong way. Matter fact, don't even post a negative Yelp review on a restaurant that MJ drove past in a taxi. OK? OK.
Forget the famous "pose" against Utah in 1998, Jordan's Hall Of Fame induction speech was the perfect final act to bookend the greatest career in NBA history. The way he concentrated everything that went into MJ the competitor and MJ the icon and distilled it into what was easily the night's most memorable 10 minutes or so -- genius. You know why dude was the greatest? Because of all those harbored resentments. Logs on his fire. Count me as a huge fan of that speech.
This 2009 class may have been the best ever when you add David Robinson, John Stockton and coach Jerry Sloan. It closes the decade with a bang. Practically all the stars from the NBA's Golden Age of the '80s and early '90s -- save for a few, like Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen -- are in Springfield, now.
It made me take a step back, scan the landscape and try to figure out who will follow MJ into Springfield for the next decade. What you'll find is that there currently aren't many retired players that are destined for the Hall.
I chalk it up to that weird period between the Magic-Jordan-Bird era of the Golden Age and the new millennium stars of this current Platinum Age. That period where much of the league's most talented players either underachieved (Derrick Coleman), were hit with career-hindering injuries (Larry Johnson, Penny Hardaway) or had other demons (Shawn Kemp). When this current generation (from, say, KG to Kevin Durant) starts calling it quits, you'll see the same glut of inductees that we've seen this decade. But the next decade, especially the next couple of years, should be pretty quiet on the HOF front.
Looking into my crystal ball, I broke down potential future HOFers into three categories:
The Definites -- likely first ballot guys.
The Maybes -- guys that might take a few years to slip in.
The Next Wave -- active players, over 33, that will likely retire within the next five years and be eligible for induction before the end of the next decade.
The following players should start working on their induction speech now. Just know that none of them will top MJ's epic Logs For My Fire classic.
Karl Malone: Eligible next year. A shoo-in. The second leading scorer and rebounder in league history. Two-time MVP.
Scottie Pippen: First ballot. Six-time NBA champion. Maybe the greatest sidekick, ever. Was one of the top five or six players for most of the 90s.
Reggie Miller: Probably the greatest shooter in NBA history. One of the 10 most clutch players of all time. Five-time All Star.
Alonzo Mourning: Seven-time All Star. Two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Gary Payton: The best point guard of his generation. The best perimeter player, period (not named MJ), for the second half of the 90s.
Dikembe Mutombo: Eight-time All Star. Four-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Chris Webber: Five-time All Star. Unfortunate victim of the Kobe-Shaq buzz-saw. One of only a handful of guys to average 20 and 10 for their career.
Vlade Divac: Solid NBA career, but his role as a trailblazer for the influx of international players and FIBA ambassador might get him in.
Tim Hardaway: Been eligible since 2008. Five-time All Star. Was right there with John Stockton as the best point guard of the early '90s.
Chris Mullin: Incredible career at St. Johns. Five-time All Star. Member of the original Dream Team. He's been eligible since 2006. At some point, he's gotta get in.
Shaquille O'Neal: The most dominant, ever. He dominated during an era with a ton of great centers, unlike Wilt, who was playing against guys the same size as Hedo Turkoglu.
Steve Nash: Six-time All Star. Two-time MVP. Three-time All NBA first team. Marching his way up the assists leaderboard.
Allen Iverson: Maybe the best little man in the history of the league.
Jason Kidd: The best point guard of his generation.
Chauncey Billups: Four-time All-Star. Finals MVP. One of the great leaders of his era.
Kevin Garnett: Been in every All-Star Game since 1997. League MVP in 2004. One of the five best players of his generation.
Tim Duncan: The best power forward of all-time.
Ray Allen: Basically Reggie Miller, without the Madison Square Garden theatrics, but with more All-Stars and a ring.
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