On April 6 the announcement was made, and on Sept. 11 the reality came true for the 11 members of the 2015 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. One player who brought a certain amount of constructive conversation was Dikembe Mutombo. Yes, he was an amazing defensive presence, a multi-year All-Star, led the league in finger wag swats and contributed an immense amount of off-court contributions to his community and homeland.
However, many look at the fact that the big man was never the best player in the league, the best player on his team and possibly never the best player at his position during his career. Mutombo was never an offensive force, was never in any MVP talks and has no rings on his fingers. In a day and age in which highlights seem to be everything, Mutombo fell short.
Whether you agree or disagree on the addition of the four-time Defensive Player of the Year making the Hall of Fame, the following players (not in order of importance) should also find themselves as part of the same debate.
Ben Wallace: If Mutombo received a nod based on his defensive abilities, then certainly Wallace should be granted the same. The only other four-time Defensive Player of the Year can also proudly add five All-Defensive First Team honors, four All-Star team nods and a handful of All-NBA team awards to his resume.
Throw in a championship ring (or belt, care of Rasheed Wallace), and chances are you overlook the lack of offensive output (5.7 PPG) by the 16-year big man and focus on his defensive contributions of 9.7 rebounds and 2 blocks a night. For those too young to know the work of Mr. Wallace, think of a mix between Serge Ibaka (without the shooting), Dwight Howard and Ron Artest.
Chris Webber: Unfortunately, it seems like Webber’s on-court basketball career will be remembered for all the wrong reasons and very few of the right. As a key member of the Fab Five for two glorious seasons, Webber and crew turned the college game upside down. Back-to-back trips to the last dance both came up short before Webber left for the NBA.
After famously being swapped for Penny Hardaway on draft day, Webber’s 17 and 9 rookie season led to the Rookie of the Year Award. A five-time participant in the All-Star Game, five-time All-NBA member and a place among the great players whose career fell short of a ring tell the short story of Webber’s NBA career.
Over the course of 15 years (2o.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG), Webber found his most success during his time with the Sacramento Kings (where his jersey hangs in retirement). However, that success was constantly cut short by the Los Angeles Lakers during the late ’90s/early 2000s. A few ticks of the clock, some questionable officiating and a buzzer-beater may be the difference between adding a couple of championship rings to this story:
Robert Horry: When does seven championship rings not get you into the Hall of Fame? When is the nickname “Big Shot” not good enough to be enshrined? When your name is Robert Horry. Unlike Webber, Horry wasn’t an offensive beast, and unlike Wallace, Horry was never a defensive threat.
Yes, Horry got to play with great names like Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, and he also played for three of the greatest coaches the game has seen. However, all great teams, players and coaches need great teammates, and Horry was one of those.
If you needed a bucket, Horry could add one in transition, from mid-range or from deep. A rebound you ask? Playing in an era of great power forwards, it wasn’t like Horry was allergic from the paint and grabbing one off the glass.
Aside from the superstars, name one other player that you wouldn’t dare leave open in the last seconds of a close game (ask Chris Webber)? Big Shot Bob! For those of you at home still looking for valuable stats to justify Horry’s spot in the Hall of Fame, try seven rings in seven trips to the Finals:
Toni Kukoc: Based on his NBA numbers of 11.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 3.7 APG in 846 games over the course of 13 seasons, Kukoc wouldn’t be worth mentioning in this conversation. However, being that it is the Basketball Hall of Fame that we’re talking about and Kukoc has a silly amount of championships and honors from before he even pulled a Chicago Bulls jersey over his head, consideration should be granted.
A three-time member of the Jordanaires and a Sixth Man of the Year award are all icing on the cake for the forward from Croatia. At 6’11”, Kukoc found himself playing multiple roles throughout his NBA career, taking advantage of his measurements and talents. Prior to his time in America, Kukoc was one of the most successful Euro players, grabbing championships in the Euroleague, Yugoslav League and Italian Leagues.
Individually, Kukoc was also honored with numerous MVP and Player of the Year awards during the early part of his career, including being named one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players. If you’re on any “greatest player” lists, you should find yourself on the greatest players list.
Vince Carter: If you live in Canada, chances are you wholeheartedly disagree. But take a second and think hard, would the Raptors continue to exist today without Vince Carter? Chances are no. Just look at the void in Vancouver as an example. Carter brought hype and awareness to Toronto regardless of the team record.
That hype and awareness also brought talent. Yes, the Raptors only made three playoff appearances during his time there, but the team still exists today in large part for what he brought. Add in the fact that VC is sitting among the top 25 scorers in NBA history, and that covers the individual stats necessities.
Suiting up for eight All-Star Games plus earning Rookie of the Year, an Olympic gold medal and a spot on the Second and Third All-NBA Teams help build a case for Carter to get enshrined. Whether you love him or hate him on the court, off of it, Carter has been a big asset to his community through his Embassy of Hope Foundation. And if you’re looking for any other reason, just ask Fredric Weis:
Vlade Divac: Unlike Kukoc, Divac was never able to find championship success or individual honors, aside from one All-Star Game appearance and a spot on the All-Rookie Team. However, Divac does have a Euro Player of the Year award, and like Webber, was part of a Kings team that ran smack into the Lakers Shaq/Kobe dynasty.
Honored as one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players and a member of the international organization’s Hall of Fame, it’s fitting that he also be added to the Naismith club. As with Kukoc, his individual stats of 11.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 1.4 BPG are nothing special, but if you were to ask any of the three franchises and their fans in LA, Charlotte and Sacramento about his contributions on and off the court, all would give the highest praise for Divac.