Basketball is unique in that their isn't an "NBA Hall of Fame." Unlike hockey, football, and baseball, which solely focus on their professional leagues (minus the inclusion of the Negro Leagues for baseball), the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame includes professional, college, international, and sometimes even high school players and coaches for both men and women.
Of course, when you think about Hall of Fame and basketball, names like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Kobe Bryant instantly come to mind. These basketball legends have rightfully earned their place among the all-time greats. However, the Hall of Fame does not always capture the full spectrum of extraordinary talent that has graced the hardwood. In this article, we will shine a spotlight on some of the best NBA players who, despite their incredible skills and contributions to the game, have yet to receive the honor of induction into the Hall of Fame.
Before we do that, though, let's take a look at the rules for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible as a player, an individual must be fully retired from playing professional basketball for at least three full seasons. Additionally, the player must have achieved significant accomplishments during their playing career, such as NBA championships, All-Star selections, MVP awards, or other notable honors. The three years removed is the reason a player like Vince Carter, who retired at the end of the 2020 season, is just now becoming eligible.
Coaches become eligible for Hall of Fame consideration after they have been retired from coaching for at least four seasons. They must have achieved notable success as a coach, including championships, high winning percentages, and other significant accomplishments in their coaching career.
Referees, Executives, and Other Contributors
Referees, executives, and other contributors to the game of basketball become eligible after they have completed significant service to the sport. This includes referees who have officiated at the highest levels, executives who have made significant contributions to the game's development, and other individuals who have had a lasting impact on the sport.
The Hall of Fame also considers candidates from international basketball, including players, coaches, and contributors who have made significant contributions to the game on a global scale.
Now that we're clear on eligibility requirements, let's take a look at the players who have yet to receive that Hall of Fame call that could or should be worthy of the honor.
Shawn Kemp was a dynamic and explosive power forward who thrilled fans with his high-flying dunks and incredible athleticism. Known as the "Reign Man," Kemp played the prime of his career with the Seattle SuperSonics. He was a six-time NBA All-Star and a force to be reckoned with in the paint. Kemp's combination of strength, agility, and leaping ability made him a dominant force on both ends of the floor. His impact on the game, particularly during the SuperSonics' successful runs in the 1990s, deserves recognition. Critics would point out the last 3 seasons of his career, where he averaged 6.5, 6.1 and 6.8 points per game.
Despite not being considered a superstar player during his career, Horry has a strong case for induction based on his remarkable achievements and clutch performances in the NBA.
Horry is widely regarded as one of the greatest role players in NBA history. He played for multiple teams throughout his career, including the Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and others. What sets Horry apart are his seven NBA championships, which he won with three different teams (Rockets, Lakers, and Spurs). His ability to come through in crucial moments and hit game-winning shots earned him the nickname "Big Shot Bob." The number one reason he's out is that his career averages of 7.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists don't stack up to other hall of famers.
Known as "Mr. Big Shot," Billups had an impressive career and achieved considerable success as a player. Billups played for several NBA teams throughout his career, including the Detroit Pistons, Denver Nuggets, and others. He was a skilled point guard known for his leadership, clutch performances, and ability to control the game. Billups played a key role in leading the Detroit Pistons to an NBA championship in 2004, where he was named the Finals MVP. He was also a five-time NBA All-Star and a three-time All-NBA selection. I think Chauncey will eventually make it in.
Mark Eaton, standing at a towering 7 feet 4 inches, was a defensive stalwart during his career with the Utah Jazz. His shot-blocking ability was unparalleled, as he led the league in blocks per game four times. Eaton's presence in the paint altered countless shots and forced opponents to alter their game plans. He was a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a vital component of the Jazz's success during the 1980s and early 1990s. Eaton's impact on the defensive end of the floor was undeniable, making his omission from the Hall of Fame a notable oversight.
Kevin Johnson was a dynamic point guard known for his exceptional speed and agility. He spent the majority of his career with the Phoenix Suns, where he became one of the franchise's all-time greats. Johnson was a skilled playmaker and scorer, consistently averaging double-digit points and assists per game. His ability to penetrate defenses and create opportunities for his teammates made him a nightmare to guard. Johnson's impact on the game extended beyond his individual accolades, as he helped lead the Suns to multiple deep playoff runs. Despite his remarkable career, Johnson has yet to receive the Hall of Fame nod.
Kevin Willis had an incredibly long and productive NBA career spanning over two decades. Standing at 7 feet tall, Willis was a dominant force in the paint, known for his rebounding prowess and physicality. He played for numerous teams throughout his career, including the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs. Willis won an NBA championship with the Spurs in 2003, showcasing his ability to contribute to a championship-caliber team. Despite his impressive longevity and contributions to the game, Willis has yet to receive the recognition of a Hall of Fame induction.
Rod Strickland was a crafty point guard with exceptional ball-handling skills and court vision. He played for multiple teams during his career, including the Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Bullets/Wizards, and San Antonio Spurs. Strickland was known for his ability to navigate through defenses and create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. He consistently ranked among the league leaders in assists and was a key facilitator for his teams. Strickland's unique style of play and influence on the game make him a notable omission from the Hall of Fame.
Terry Cummings was a versatile forward who excelled at scoring and rebounding. He enjoyed a successful career with teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs, and Philadelphia 76ers. Cummings was a skilled post player with a soft touch around the basket and a reliable mid-range jumper. He was a two-time NBA All-Star and won the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 1983. Cummings' consistent production and impact on the court make his exclusion from the Hall of Fame a surprising oversight.
Larry Nance was known for his incredible leaping ability and highlight-reel dunks. He played the majority of his career with the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers, where he became a fan favorite. Nance was a two-time NBA All-Star and won the first-ever Slam Dunk Contest in 1984. He was an exceptional shot-blocker and a solid all-around player. Nance's electrifying style of play and impact on the game should have earned him a spot.
Marques Johnson was a highly skilled forward known for his smooth scoring ability. He played the majority of his career with the Milwaukee Bucks and later had stints with the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. Johnson was a five-time NBA All-Star and a versatile offensive threat. He had a polished offensive game with an array of scoring moves and an ability to finish at the rim. Johnson's impact on the court, particularly as a key player for the Bucks in the 1980s, warrants consideration for the Hall of Fame.
Mark Price was a highly skilled and intelligent point guard known for his exceptional shooting and playmaking abilities. He spent the majority of his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers and later played for the Washington Bullets and Golden State Warriors. Price was a four-time NBA All-Star and one of the best shooters of his era. He possessed a deadly accurate jump shot and was a proficient free-throw shooter. Price's ability to control the game and make his teammates better should have earned him a place in the Hall of Fame.
While he may not be as well-known as some of the superstars of his era, Williams had a highly productive and impactful career. Williams played in the NBA from 1981 to 1998, spending the majority of his career with the New Jersey Nets and later playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks, and Houston Rockets. He was known for his toughness, rebounding prowess, and consistent performance on both ends of the court.
Throughout his career, Williams established himself as one of the most reliable rebounders in NBA history. He led the league in total rebounds in the 1982-1983 season and finished his career with over 13,000 rebounds. Williams was also a consistent scorer, averaging double-digit points for 12 consecutive seasons.
Throughout his career, Marion showcased a unique skill set and made significant contributions to the teams he played for. Marion played in the NBA from 1999 to 2015, spending the majority of his career with the Phoenix Suns, where he became known for his versatility and exceptional athleticism. He was an integral part of the Suns' high-octane offense, known as the "Seven Seconds or Less" era, alongside Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire.
Marion's ability to impact the game in multiple ways set him apart. He was an excellent defender, earning four NBA All-Defensive Team selections. Marion's athleticism and quickness allowed him to guard multiple positions effectively. He was also a formidable scorer and rebounder, averaging double-digit points and rebounds for multiple seasons.
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John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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