The case for an NBA-only Hall of Fame

Photo: Springfield Mass
Photo: Springfield Mass /

The parameters for getting into the Naismith Hall of Fame are clouded and the 44,000-square-foot fortress of plaques are rapidly approaching overflow. While the National Basketball Association doesn’t hold a monopoly on the hardwood, they deserve to have an NBA-only Hall of Fame.

Most of my recent life has been spent attempting to refute ethnocentrism in just about every way possible, particularly in the contemporary cultural scope. Jackie Moon bellowing “Everybody love everybody” is far less objectionable in my eyes than its alternative—regardless that it’s produced by a short-shorted, funky fro who earlier in the film sings an egregious ballad entitled, “Love Me Sexy.” When it comes to judgment, I’m with Jackie on this one.

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Basketball, though, is the line I’m willing to cross.

The sport was invented here, and since the Summer Olympics began holding the event in 1936 (women’s basketball came in 1976, a separate argument can be made there), the United States is 130-5 all-time and have won 14 out of a possible 18 gold medals.

Our 17 total medals in the sport are more than the three countries immediately trailing us combined. When Manu Ginobili and the Argentinian national team bested the US in Athens, ending our hold on the gold medal—we would later take the bronze—it was not only tragic, it was met by a nationwide pretentious aura because it had every right to be.

There’s quality basketball found across the globe, if the influx of international players into the league hasn’t grabbed your attention, then I don’t know what to tell you. The San Antonio Spurs just won an NBA championship with eight international players, the most international players ever on a title team.

This isn’t about who holds or doesn’t hold a monopoly on the hardwood, it’s about how to turn Springfield into a home for the best rather than a home for the very good.

Two weeks ago, Zach Lowe of Grantland and former head coach Jeff Van Gundy brought up an interesting point: the NBA needs its own Hall of Fame.

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia /

There are currently 325 coaches, players, referees, contributors, and teams enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, for example, has 306 members. Five decades after citizens first paid to hear the crack of the bat, soccer balls were still being shot into peach baskets. And yet the numbers remain.

Disclaimer: the 19-member difference isn’t all that significant. If the two were identical, my position wouldn’t shift on the matter. Remember, this isn’t as much about inclusivity as it is elitism.

If the NBA has its own HOF then I would expect the WNBA and the NCAA to have there’s as well.

This isn’t to say that I believe purging the excess—which in our case is college and international analysts, referees, contributors, teams, and WNBA players—from every memorial housing structure is the proper solution. That would not only be agist, it’d be shooting 100 percent in sexism. If the NBA has its own HOF then I would expect the WNBA and the NCAA to have there’s as well.

Drazen Petrovic, the Croatian sharpshooter who’s profiled in the ESPN award-winning 30 for 30 series (Once Brothers), tragically had his life and career cut short. His 4,461 career points in the NBA surely didn’t land him in Springfield, but his stellar international career and memorable narrative did.

Lithuanian center Arvydas Sabonis was preordained to make waves in the league when Portland took him with the No. 24 pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. He didn’t. The 7’3” skyscraper battled relentless injuries, yet his average of 12 points and All-Rookie team selection brought him to Springfield in 2011.

It’s not just international and college athletes who’re causing the overflow, our standards for NBA players are equally as muddled. Every member of the 1960 US Olympic team was inducted in 2012. The entire team?

The hodgepodge of enshrined members is a byproduct of diluted barometers and backend secrecy. There’s really no way to understand who makes it into the joint because there is a dearth of universal criteria. Clearly personality isn’t taken into account, and rightfully so, if Dennis Rodman has a spot. Clearly numbers aren’t the entire pie if Earl “The Pearl” Monroe landed there. Maybe it’s due to some notion of “fairness,” but the more than 40,000-square-foot structure of inductees is overgrown.

Perhaps this is a hopelessly misplaced pipedream, and this stance most definitely isn’t universally agreed upon. A mass exodus of HOF members isn’t coming any time soon, but maybe, we can at least begin working toward some semblance of criterion.

In an era where all-encompassing entities are justly being broken everyday, the Naismith Hall of Fame wouldn’t be a ridiculous thing to consider placing on the chopping block.