An Open Letter to the Basketball Hall of Fame
by Mark Boyle
September 11, 2012
Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Committee
1000 West Columbus Avenue
Springfield, MA 01105
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m a bit ambivalent about contacting you. Not because I don’t believe in what I’m about to say, but because I generally don’t advocate lobbying for accolades, awards, or any other kind of recognition. I’ve always felt that if your body of work merits recognition, it will come.
In this, case, though, I feel the urge to make an exception, because your curious lack of insight has resulted in the shameful omission of one of the game’s last unrecognized icons. It’s bad enough that Mel Daniels had to wait too long to get in, though I’m hopeful that his induction will end what appears to an unwarranted bias against those that did the bulk of their work in the ABA. Now that the committee has corrected the Daniels oversight, it’s time to do the right thing and recognize a man who is even more deserving than Mel was during his impressive career.
His credentials are impeccable. He was a college All American and played on an NCAA championship team at Indiana. He had a solid career as an NBA player, and was a player-coach in the league when he was just 30 years old. He had spectacular success coaching the Pacers, winning three ABA titles, was later instrumental in saving the franchise when demise seemed inevitable, and has been a franchise icon as a broadcaster for decades. What more does he need to do?
Let’s see. Slick won almost 60% of his games as Indiana’s coach, along with the aforementioned three championships. Dick Vitale won 34 games (that’s not a typo), never played in the NBA, and he’s in. I understand he’s been a major presence on television, but this isn’t the Television Hall of Fame. It’s the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Phil Knight is in. I’ll acknowledge that he does make a pretty good shoe, but I don’t see anyone that made baseball cleats in Cooperstown. Lynn St. John made it, and according to his bio on your own website, his major contribution is that he “lobbied for formal national and international rules for amateur basketball for three decades”. Good for Lynn, but how does that make him more worthy than Slick? And let’s not forget Luther Gulick, who, according to your site, was “instrumental in the creation of the Boy Scouts” and “developed the triangular YMCA symbol”.
Those are breathtaking accomplishments.
My intent here is not to suggest that Vitale, St. John, or Gulick don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. But it should be obvious to even the most vapid observer – not that I’m intimating that any of you are vapid – that Mr. Leonard should be enshrined as well. Fortunately, it’s not too late for you to correct this egregious oversight and include him with the Class of 2013. To do so would not only be the right thing to do, it would also further legitimize your organization. To have a Basketball Hall of Fame without William Robert Leonard is analogous to having an animated hall of fame without Stewie Griffin, and I implore you to defer to common sense and make this happen.
In conclusion, and in the interest of total transparency, I feel it’s appropriate that I admit to a strong bias in Mr. Leonard’s favor. While all of the aforementioned points should seem obvious to even a neutral observer, my viewpoint is admittedly skewed due to my professional relationship with Slick. In other words, I am predisposed to view him in the most positive light possible. You would be, too, if he’d been carrying you on his back for almost twenty years.
Thank you for your consideration in this matter. I trust in you to do the right thing.
Play-By-Play Broadcaster (and Mr. Leonard’s caddy)