Turns Out, There's A Day For Fools in February, Too
February 18, 2011
Did I oversleep? Is this April 1?
I look outside and see the sun shining, the birds chirping and neighbors walking their dogs without ice skates, so I guess it's possible.
Because there's really no other rational explanation for the reports circulating that Reggie Miller did not make the list of finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Swirl that one around in your brain for a minute. This wasn't about making the Hall of Fame itself. This was about making the list of finalists for the Hall of Fame.
The selection process has long been cause for debate because it is so secretive. The names of those who cast the ballots are not made public. But when Reggie Miller does not make the list of finalists, there is something very, very wrong.
You want to debate whether he belongs in the Hall itself? We can do that later. This is about a process that denies him a place on the list of finalists, which means he isn't even a candidate for enshrinement.
Granted, I make no claim to objectivity on this subject, because I was there for every one of his moments. Eight points in 8.9? Check. Twenty-five in the fourth quarter? Check. The fallaway game-winning 3-pointer over Michael Jordan? Check.
In my eyes, Reggie cemented his Hall of Fame status not in Madison Square Garden but in the New Jersey swamps. His performance in Game 5 of the first-round series against the Nets in 2002, was to me the greatest example of his will and heart.
First came the ridiculous turnaround 3-pointer from near midcourt that forced overtime. Then came the drive through the heart of the New Jersey defense for a dunk that brought about a second overtime. That they lost the game was almost incidental.
I can't begin to fathom the logic the voters used in denying Miller a spot the list of finalists. Argue numbers all you want but the Hall of Fame is not about statistics alone, it is about greatness.
In the NBA, there is no greater measure of greatness than performance in the crucible of the playoffs. Did he win a ring? No. Did he lead a previously moribund franchise into the playoffs in 15 of his 18 seasons? Did he lead said franchise to the conference finals six times and the NBA Finals for the only time in its history? Absolutely.
If the ring's the thing, Reggie could've chased one by coming out of retirement and joining the Celtics in 2007. Had he made the leap, maybe he gets the jewelry, maybe he makes enough 3-pointers to keep Ray Allen in second place on the all-time list, and maybe the voters don't hesitate to place him on the list of finalists for the Hall of Fame.
If he is to be punished by the voters for doing the right thing, the noble thing, the honorable thing, and allowing his career to stand on its own merit rather than trying to piggyback on others, that says all that needs to be said about the flaws in the selection process.
So Reggie now joins the Pacers' Legion of Snubbed.
Slick Leonard: 529 wins, three championships.
Mel Daniels: two-time MVP, three-time champion, career averages of 18.4 points and 14.9 rebounds.
Roger Brown: before Miller the greatest clutch scorer in franchise history, possibly in ABA history, also a three-time champion.
George McGinnis: six-time All-Star (three in each league), two-time champion, career averages of 20.2 points and 11.0 rebounds.
I turn to the calendar on my computer for confirmation. No, it's not April Fools Day.
Turns out, there's one in February, too.