Posted Mar 29 2012 2:50PM
Don Nelson. That's one.
The winningest coach in NBA history announced his own election into the Hall of Fame in a wincing moment for the museum that jumped the official announcement by five days and ended one of the great Hall debates. Nelson's in, according to Nelson, and that's one.
There is no such public clarity for the eight other finalists with NBA ties, though presumably they also privately learned their Hall fate Wednesday like Nellie. Only, the winners so far chose to respect the wishes that the inductees be revealed Monday at the Final Four in New Orleans. More results will trickle out before then. They always do.
Rating candidates' chances will continue in the meantime, a particularly treacherous exercise with this secret operation of voters who are never disclosed and vote totals that are never released. Nelson's election is a perfect example, as if on cue -- a finalist two years ago, failed to make the cut in 2011 and now all the way to enshrinement this time. Dennis Rodman went from not being voted a finalist in 2010 to induction the following year. The Republican primaries are an easy read by comparison.
There is no such thing as a Naismith Hall of Fame candidate closing in on election over time, as in baseball, because there is no way of knowing if someone is gaining ground. As recent years have proven, they can be losing ground and instantly whiplash all the way back. There is no such thing as trends because the voters are rotated out every couple years. There is no such thing as lobbying, exactly the reason the Hall does not reveal the 24 decision makers for the North American Committee, the group that handles most finalists with NBA ties.
But there are reasoned guesstimates.
Candidate: Maurice Cheeks
Summary: The four-time All-Star and four-time All-Defense selection has not seemed to gain much traction. He falls into the category of very good, just not immortal.
Candidate: Bill Fitch
Summary: Though voted one of the 10 best coaches in league history in 1996, he is a career 944-1,106. Getting into the Hall of Fame with a losing record is a steep climb, even with the 1981 Celtics championship on the resumé.
Candidate: Bernard King
Summary: If Nelson is, in fact, in, King moves near the top of the list of most overdue for election. At a time the Hall officials have been pushing to recognize that very group, it is impossible to overlook a forward who overcame two major knee injuries to average 20 points a game 11 different seasons.
Candidate: Reggie Miller
Summary: The Pacers' career scoring leader and two-time gold medalist with Team USA, once in the 1996 Olympics and once in the 1994 World Championships, can find hope in the Rodman path of going from non-finalist his first season of eligiblity to election in the second. Any first-ballot recognition is hard, let alone induction as a rookie. That's Miller now after missing the initial cut in 2011.
Candidate: Dick Motta
Summary: He was the 1971 Coach of the Year, the coach of the 1978 Bullets title team, but, again, a losing record: 935-1,017.
Candidate: Rick Pitino
Summary: The former Knicks and Celtics coach is best known for college work, as the only men's coach to lead three different schools to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville). He has a national championship -- 1996 with Kentucky -- and another trip to the title game.
Candidate: Ralph Sampson
Summary: It's the basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame, and Sampson was brilliant in college as the only three-time winner of Player of the Year. A letdown of a pro career should not overshadow that.
Candidate: Jamaal Wilkes
Summary: Class act Wilkes remains a favorite of the selection committee, consistently reaching the final stage while unable to break through to induction. With his silky-smooth jumper, Wilkes had a major role in two championships at UCLA and four in the NBA.
There is nothing close to an automatic among the North American finalists that also includes Hank Nichols, a college and international referee, who will need at least 18 of the 24 votes cast. Katrina McClain, a star at Georgia and with USA Basketball, and the barnstorming All America Red Heads, known as the female Globetrotters, are finalists from the Women's Committee.
Five inductees were announced in February: Mel Daniels (ABA Committee, Don Barksdale (Early African American Pioneers), Lidia Alexeeva (International), Chet Walker (Veterans) and Phil Knight (Contributor).
Ceremonies are Sept. 7 in Springfield, Mass.
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