Three Pacers are in the Naismith Hall of Fame. Mel Daniels, Roger Brown and Slick Leonard seemed like no-brainers once the Hall opened its doors to players and coaches from the American Basketball Association. Louie Dampier, the Southport High School grad who played for the Kentucky Colonels, was inducted last month, bringing the total of Hall inductees who played the vast majority of their careers in the ABA to three.
Who's next? Anyone? At some point, obviously, the Hall will run out of viable candidates from the ABA, although there will be wide disagreement on when that occurs. The Hall's selection process is shrouded in secrecy, and representatives aren't even saying whether the ABA Committee from which candidates have been directly elected will continue. An e-mail to a Hall employee seeking comment was forwarded, but no response received.
Jerry Colangelo, Chairman of the Hall of Fame's Board of Governors, told NBA.com in 2014 the subject of canceling the ABA Committee had come up for discussion.
"The concept was we felt people had slipped through the cracks," Colangelo told Scott Howard-Cooper. "This was a catch-up kind of thing, so we're not locked in. We need now to review it each year, to say maybe we've taken care of what needed to be taken care of in this category or that category."
Colangelo added that former ABA players still could be considered for induction, but would fall into the same general pool as other candidates.
Four former Pacers1 remain on the list of players eligible for direct selection from the ABA to the Hall of Fame, bypassing the standard nominating process. One in particular stands out. George McGinnis was as good as any player in the game during his peak period in the mid-Seventies, ABA or NBA.
McGinnis was co-Most Valuable Player of the ABA with Julius Erving in the 1974-75 season, when he averaged 29.8 points, 14.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.6 steals. He led the Pacers to a surprising journey to the ABA finals that season, averaging 32.3 points, 15.9 rebounds, 8.2 assists, two steals and 6.2 turnovers in the playoffs.
He also was a member of two of the Pacers' three ABA title teams, earning finals MVP honors in 1973. He was named to three ABA All-Star teams and then three NBA All-Star teams after jumping leagues before the 1975-76 season. He was a first-team all-league selection twice in the ABA and once in the NBA.
Despite finishing his career humbly with the Pacers in the 1981-82 season, when he averaged 4.7 points and 5.2 rebounds, he averaged 20.2 points and 11 rebounds for his career. He is one of very few eligible players who averaged a career double-double not to be elected to the Hall.
And there's this: he's the only player to have won a regular season MVP honor in the ABA or NBA not to be inducted.
To get an idea of the impact of his jump from the Pacers to Philadelphia for the 1975-76 season, consider the fan response. The Pacers' average attendance dropped by 4,000 per game, while the 76ers' attendance improved by 7,000.
McGinnis said he doesn't think about the Hall of Fame too often. But he certainly thinks about it some after seeing Pacer teammates Daniels and Brown inducted, along with their coach, Leonard.
"It's on my mind," he said. "Somebody doesn't like me, I think. But I don't let it bother me. I know what I accomplished."
McGinnis has no doubt he accomplished enough to be immortalized in the Hall.
"There's no question I belong," he said. "I don't stay up at night worrying about it, though. Maybe if I didn't have a life and that's all I had to hang my hat on, but I've moved on. I'm happy with what I'm doing. I don't sit around and think about it."
McGinnis, who has owned GM Supply Company since 1992, has heard the possible reasons for his exclusion to this point. His career was relatively short, 11 seasons, and he faded sharply at the end. He was released by the Pacers at the age of 32, a shell of his former self. He also is linked to the 1977 Philadelphia team that is regarded as one of the most talented in NBA history, but lost to Portland in the NBA Finals. The Blazers were renown for their teamwork, while the 76ers were labeled as individualists.
"There's a lot of guys who played less years than me," he said. "And my numbers match up with pretty much most of those guys who are already in there."
There's yet another argument on McGinnis' behalf. It's called the Naismith Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame. Plenty of players have been inducted who did not play in the NBA. McGinnis was one of the most dominant high school players ever while leading Washington High School to an undefeated season and state championship in 1969. He then averaged 30 points and 14.7 rebounds in his only college season at Indiana as a sophomore before joining the Pacers.
He has Hall of Fame numbers. Most of those who saw him play would agree he had Hall of Fame talent. The question remains, will the Hall executives agree before shutting down the ABA Committee?
(1)The other three are Freddie Lewis, a viable candidate for the Hall, along with Warren Jabali and Donnie Freeman.
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