Living the Fantasy: Hall of FameAlso see: 10 Things for 2006-07 I | War of the Worlds
But for our purposes here, the ladies are kindly asked to take a seat while we ask three true NBA legends to rise for their just desserts.
Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, and Joe Dumars (along with Geno Auriemma, Sandro Gamba, and David Gavitt) are poised to become immortals in the pantheon of basketball, as all six will be inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in just a few short hours. Sir Charles, ‘Nique, and Joe D were all phenomenal basketball players, obviously, and that’s why I’m back to chime in on their behalf.
Barkley is roughly 6-5, yet he ranks 15th all-time with 12,546 rebounds, ahead of seven-footers like Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing, and David Robinson, and ahead of specialists like Paul Silas, Charles Oakley, and Dennis Rodman. Thus, the nickname "Round Mound of Rebound". But rebounds don’t tell the whole story, as Barkley ranks 16th in points with 23,757, 15th in field goal percentage at .541, 17th in steals with 1,648 (1.54 per game), and ninth in free throws made with 6,349.
Barkley was a beast who was a first-round fantasy pick for 11 straight seasons from 1985-96, when he never fell below 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, 1.3 steals, or 49 percent from the floor.
But beyond the fantasy of it all, Barkley’s place in basketball history is that of the best undersized rebounder ever. It could also be said of Barkley that no basketball player got more out of less. The same cannot be said of The Chuckster’s broadcasting, and we’ll just leave it at that.
Over his 15-year NBA career, Wilkins had a field goal percentage of .461, topped 100 threes only twice, pulled 6.7 boards per game, dished 2.5 assists, and came up with 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks. Sounds a lot like Carmelo Anthony’s line, doesn’t it?
Wilkins may have been a slightly overrated fantasy player, but to me his basketball legacy is twofold.
On one hand, he was the greatest dunker I have ever seen. Yes, better than Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, and JR Rider. No one dunked with 'Nique’s blend of power and grace. Keep in mind, neither Jordan nor Erving were dubbed "The Human Highlight Film".
On the other hand, ‘Nique’s legacy is that of the greatest loser in NBA history. Of the eight players who scored more points than Wilkins, only Karl Malone failed to win a ring. But we can hardly label Malone a loser, as he went to The Finals twice and battled in 193 playoff games. By contrast, Wilkins appeared in just 56 postseason games and never sniffed the NBA’s main event.
(Of course, when I call Wilkins a "loser", I mean "non-winner." Not the rube who wears the t-shirt of the band he’s going to see or the tool in the BMW who bounces from lane to lane in rush hour traffic.)
When I think of Dumars as a fantasy player, I immediately think of fellow Piston, then Knick, Allan Houston.
Over his 14-year career, Dumars averaged 16.1 points, 4.5 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks, .461 from the field, .400 from three, and .850 from the line. In 12 years, Houston averaged 17.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, .444 from the field, .402 from three, and .863 from the stripe.
Obviously, Dumars never cared about stats. How could he care about stats when he had to worry about guarding Jordan on his way to winning back-to-back rings in 1989 and 1990? And let’s not forget that Dumars was named Finals MVP for his efforts against the Lakers in June of 1989.
Like Wilkins, Dumars’ basketball legacy is twofold.
First off, he is the most underrated defender of all-time. When you listen to people talk about the game’s great defenders, you always hear the names Russell, Jordan, Pippen, Wallace, Mutombo, Olajuwon, Robinson, Garnett, and Payton -- and rightly so. But rarely do you hear Dumars’ name in the same sentence, and that isn’t right. Just ask Jordan, who once deemed Dumars the best defender he faced in the NBA.
Secondly, Dumars is quite possibly the best team player of all-time. If Chuck Daly needed eight points and shut-down defense, Dumars would deliver every single time. If Daly needed 25 points because Isiah Thomas was either injured or struggling, Dumars would deliver every single time. And that team-oriented mentality has carried over to the front office where Dumars earned a ring as the architect of the 2004 Pistons.
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Barkley or Wilkins, but I have crossed paths with Dumars, who is in the Hall of Fame of humans as well as the Hall of Fame of ballers.
During the regular season, NBA TV fantasy expert Rick Kamla writes a weekly column, Living the Fantasy, on NBA.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org