Bill Simmons suggested earlier this week that getting inducted into the Hall of Fame doesn't mean as much as it used to:
Take the case of Joe Dumars, a nice enough player who was inducted last weekend alongside two superior ones, Dominique Wilkins and Charles Barkley. Sure, Dumars was the one decent soul on those Bad Boys squads, a splendid team player who lifted his game when it mattered, a gifted defender who guarded MJ tougher than anyone. When the league struggled with character issues in the mid-90s, Joe D stood out for his class and professionalism. Watching him co-exist with the crotch-grabbing jerks on Dream Team II was like seeing Nic Cage stuck on the Con Air plane. Like everyone else, I like Joe Dumars. A lot.
Does any of that make him a Hall of Famer? Of course not.
Here's his résumé: six All-Star Games, one Finals MVP, one second-team All-NBA selection, four first-team All-Defense selections. He was never a franchise player, much less a defining one. In fact, in certain pivotal playoff games (Game 5 of the 1990 Finals, for instance), Dumars sat in crunch time. Most damning of all is databasebasketball.com's Hall of Fame monitor. The statistical engine assigns each player a score, with anything over 135 denoting Hall of Fame worthiness. Kareem scores the highest, with 833. Jordan scores 731; Barkley, 315; Wilkins, 142. Dumars? He gets a 105, trailing 33 retired players who haven't made the cut.
[First of all, a clarification: Hall of Fame rules stipulate that a player is inducted solely by his playing career, not by any additional achievements as an executive after he hangs up the sneakers. Not everyone realizes this, but this is why Simmons doesn't mention how Dumars won another title as the team president in 2004.]
I'm usually all about using stats to compare players, but you have to draw a line somewhere. Dominique Wilkins was certainly more flashy and he definitely put up better numbers over the length of his career... but what did being a stathound get him? Three trips beyond the first-round of the playoffs? Dumars played in the NBA Finals three times. He won twice, and by many accounts probably should have won all three.
Furthermore, to uggest that Dumars sat in crunch time in ludicrous. Detroit had one of the best three-guard rotations of all-time, and while there may have been a handful times that Vinnie Johnson was red-hot and played over Dumars, it certainly wasn't hardly the norm.
As for the 1990 Game 5 example, people tend to forget everything that Vinnie did in that game -- he didn't just nail that last second shot with .007 left to win the game, he scored 16 points in the fourth quarter alone, including nine straight at one point to put Detroit in front after trailing for much of the game. He was absolutely red-hot, and it would have been ridiculous to take him out of the game for Dumars in the final seconds simply because of some kind of heirarchy of Dumars being the All-Star starter.
So Dumars sat, Vinnie played, and the Pistons won their second title in as many years beause of it. How can you look at that after the fact and find a way to fault Dumars? You play to win championships, not to accrue crunch time minutes, which Dumars certainly had enough of over the rest of his career.
Secondly, how can Simmons say Dumars wasn't "a defining player"? As far as the NBA is concerned, Dumars defines "sportsmanship," which is why they named their freaking award after him! If the titles, stats and individual honors don't win you over, having an award created and eventually named in your honor should.
I could go on and on, but I don't have the time, energy or desire to turn this into a player-by-player comparison of who belongs and who doesn't. Heck, this wasn't even supposed to be it's own post -- I was originally going to just throw it up as part of a big link dump -- but after letting this stew in the back of my mind for the past week I ended up having more to say than I planned. To be honest, I actually really enjoy Simmons' work for ESPN, but his biases for the Celtics and against the Pistons come shining through every time.
And honestly, I'm fine with that -- he's like most bloggers in that he doesn't hide his allegiances but instead is quite proud of them. This time, though, I think he hid them, as I really doubt he's being completely objective but instead is letting his disdain for the Bad Boys era Pistons to at least partially influence his opinion. Sure, I could be off base... or perhaps Simmons simply left that out to either strengthen his argument or save space (like all of his columns that appear in ESPN The Magazine, this was a little bit shorter than his usual 4,000 missives). Who knows, but either way, I disagree.
Building the Halls of Justice [ESPN.com]