Posted Apr 12 2012 10:14AM
So, then, on to the new business.
Hall of Fame voters, without a deserving first-ballot nominee, addressed the patient candidates as the Class of 2012 was announced last week. Reggie Miller was elected after failing to reach the finalist stage a year earlier. Don Nelson was elected two years after setting the record for career coaching wins. Jamaal Wilkes was elected 26 years after retiring. Ralph Sampson was elected, 29 years after completing the historically significant college career that drove his enshrinement.
The list of most deserving for induction was overhauled in an instant. The updated version, for 2013 and beyond, does not have the same marquee value as past Hall possibilities and not everyone in the top 10 has a realistic chance to make Springfield. Plus, some lower-ranked candidates will be elected ahead of others higher on the list with the easier path of going through the International or ABA committees rather than the North American Committee that handles most with NBA backgrounds and includes an extra round of voting scrutiny.
Obviously Gary Payton will become No. 1 when he is put on the ballot for the first time as the only lock for 2013. The ranking for now, though, of those with strong NBA ties so far nominated but not elected:
1. Bernard King, North American Committee: Nelson's replacement for the curious case of being passed over. King only made First Team All-NBA twice and Second Team once, but he played forward in the era of Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins and Karl Malone. Most importantly, King was a scoring sensation at Tennessee -- college credentials matter as well -- who had a career average of 22.5 points despite two serious knee injuries and finished at better than 20 points in 11 different seasons.
2. Jerry Krause, Contributor: He put together the Bulls championship era. Period. Michael Jordan was already there when Krause took over as head of basketball operations, but Krause traded for Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, Dennis Rodman and Luc Longley; signed Ron Harper, John Paxson, Scott Williams, Steve Kerr and Bill Wennington; drafted Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc, B.J. Armstrong and Will Perdue, and hired Phil Jackson as coach.
3. Mark Jackson, North American: The greatest of the debates. Jackson won Rookie of the Year and was on the All-Rookie team, then never made any of the three All-NBA teams in the next 16 seasons and was an All-Star just once. But he was a point guard who retired with the second-most assists in league history, before Jason Kidd later took over No. 2 behind John Stockton. An all-time standing in the telling category for a distributor has to count for something at some stage.
4. Tim Hardaway, North American: He was a better all-around talent than Jackson at the same position, made an All-NBA team five times, the All-Star team another five, and won gold in the Olympics and World Championships. Hardaway could be a big-time scorer, even on teams in Golden State and Miami with other stars, as well as a talented playmaker.
5. Bobby Jones, ABA: The classification is hazy because he spent only two seasons in the ABA compared to 10 in the NBA, but life in the rebel league could be a priority ticket for Jones, just as it got Mel Daniels to the front of the line this year. Jones is a worthwhile conversation no matter what -- 10 consecutive first team All-Defense before (Nuggets) and after (Nuggets and 76ers) the merger, a combined five All-Star appearances, an important role on Philadelphia's 1983 title team, an Olympic silver medalist in 1972, and a very good shooter who never had big scoring numbers primarily because he played alongside offensive stars.
6. Mitch Richmond, North American: Rchmond averaged at least 21 points his first 10 seasons, with good teams (Golden State) and bad (Sacramento). In the ultimate sign of his standing as a feared opponent, he was selected to six All-Star games while playing for the Kings, or despite playing for the Kings. Richmond was Second or Third Team All-NBA five times in a time of Jordan, John Stockton, Payton and Hardaway.
7. Maurice Cheeks, North American: Cheeks retired in 1993 as the all-time steals leader -- Stockton, Jordan, Jason Kidd and Payton have since passed him -- and fifth on the assists list. He was a four-time All-Star, a four-time selection to the All-Defense team and a member of the 1983 championship club in Philadelphia.
8. George McGinnis, ABA: The lethal scorer at forward with the Pacers and later the NBA 76ers and Nuggets averaged at least 21 points for seven consecutive seasons in the two leagues and was co-MVP of the ABA in 1975 with Indiana. Imagine if he hadn't played two of the seasons in the same frontcourt with Erving.
9. Rick Pitino, North American: Though best known for his college resumé, Pitino was coach and president of the Celtics and assistant and later head coach of the Knicks. Pitino and John Calipari are the only coaches in NCAA history to coach in the Final Four with three different men's programs.
10. Bobby Leonard, ABA: "Slick" won 529 games and three championships as Pacers coach, after playing seven seasons with the Lakers and starring at Indiana University. His greatest legacy may be a major role in keeping professional basketball in Indiana at a time when it appeared the Pacers might move.
Also considered: Vlade Divac (International), Bill Fitch (North American), Dick Motta (North American), Ron Boone (ABA), Rudy Tomjanovich (North American).
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