PATTEN PENDING: IS ANTAWN JAMISON A HALL OF FAMER?

Antawn Jamison is not the kind of guy who would argue his credentials for the Hall of Fame.

He uses words like “blessing” and “humbling” to describe the duration of his 16-year career. But Jamison, who this week joined a rare group of players who have topped 20,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in his career, has paid attention to the company he joined.

“Yeah I looked at it,” Jamison said. “That says a lot. You know it was names like Hakeem [Olajuwon], Charles [Barkley] and those guys. You know guys as a kid that I looked up to and to be mentioned in the same category as those guys, I mean, that speaks volumes.

“I am grateful and blessed to still be able to do this and accomplish something so few people have accomplished.”

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Olajuwon and Barkley are two of 15 Hall of Famers to accumulate such lofty numbers. The other five players out of the 20 in NBA history to do so are Shaquille O’Neal, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Jamison. The former four so assured of being enshrined in Springfield that colloquialisms like shoe-in or mortal lock are not apt enough.

That leaves Jamison. The debate when it comes to a player of Jamison’s ilk comes from two distinct frames of judgment. Statistically, Jamison is in. He has the all-around numbers, and per-game scoring average that just 45 of the 98 Hall of Famers to have played in the NBA reached.  

Are numbers enough?

The main school of thought would say, no, due to the lack of Jamison’s career achievements.  He’s made two All-Star teams, won a Sixth Man of the Year award in his only season averaging fewer than 17.0 points per game in a 13-year span, and was an All-Rookie Team selection.

The one thing working in Jamison’s advantage is that Springfield is truly a basketball Hall of Fame, not just an NBA Hall of Fame.

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As a collegian, Jamison won the gamut of major NCAA awards his junior season at North Carolina and was twice named an AP All-American. He is one of the most congenial and well-liked players in the league, a terrific player in American basketball lore for more than two decades, including a high school All-American selection in 1995.

But he also never played for a team that advanced beyond the second round of the Playoffs, and one of those times he was a 33-year-old with the Cavaliers and past his days as a star. He was never an All-NBA selection and in his prime was arguably never the best player on his respective team. In 2000-01 he scored 24.9 points per game, good for ninth in the league. It was his only top 10 finish in scoring. He had two top 10 finishes in rebounding (2007-08 and 2008-09).

There are few comparable cases to Jamison. All of the other 19 players in the 20K, 8K, 1K club have numbers that exceed Jamison’s. Only Patrick Ewing and Bob Pettit are close, but both have a massive list of career achievements, including 18 combined All-NBA selections and 22 All-Star game appearances. Pettit won a single NBA title, Ewing did not. He did, however, win an NCAA title at Georgetown.

According to basketball-reference, seven players who did not achieve any of Jamison’s three major statistical benchmarks made the Hall of Fame, including modern inductees Arvydas Sabonis and Drazen Petroivc. However, contextually both Sabonis and Petrovic had superstar international careers before the NBA and four of the others were selected as contributors.

Other than Sabonis and Petrovic, only George Yardley, a Stanford alum and seventh overall pick to the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1950, was enshrined as a player. He totaled 9,063 points, 4,220 rebounds and 815 assists. He was a six-time All-Star in seven seasons with the Pistons and Nationals, two-time All-NBA selection, one-time scoring champion, and was the first to score 2,000 points in a season.

It was a different time when Yardley played, where careers were typically brief and weaved through different paths from the short-lived ABL, where Yardley spent two seasons, and military service.

It is hard to draw comparisons to players prior to the merger, so Yardley is not likely a rallying point for Jamison’s candidacy.

Is Jamison a Hall of Famer?

He would not try to convince you, other than on the court. However, the past, both recent and distant, will likely be the judge.

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