This past weekend, the Naismith Hall of Fame welcomed one of the most star-studded basketball classes ever.
That is not how folks will describe the 2022 group.
I wouldn’t call it trash per se, although I am certain there will be those who see it that way.
Whatever criticism that class gets, it will stem from the fact that it’ll lack the kind of sizzle we’ve come to expect from Hall of Fame inductions.
Joe Johnson and Manu Ginobili are the big names among the first-time eligible Hall of Famers.
I’m as big an “Iso Joe” fan as there is out there. Dude scored more than 20,000 points in his career, was named an all-star seven times and ranks among the league’s all-time Top-50 scorers.
But a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
I don’t think so.
Same goes for Manu Ginobili who on so many levels redefined how impactful one can be as a sixth man, to winning.
But like Johnson, there’s no way Manu deserves to go in before, say, Philadelphia’s Bobby Jones who like Ginobili, was one of the game’s pioneers when it comes to being an elite sixth man.
So if you don’t have any newbies, you gotta lean on the retread greats who for whatever reason, didn’t get already.
Here’s my Hall of Fame “Starting five” for the Class of 2022.
A 17-year veteran, Billups was a five-time All-Star who was named to three, All-NBA teams. He was part of that 2004 Detroit Pistons team that won it all, and came away with Finals MVP. One of his more low-key accomplishments was being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive team twice. The first time he was selected, he was in shock. I know this because I called him up with the news about it. He’s currently the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, it would be a bit of a shocker if he’s not walking into the Hall of Fame for his own induction next year and not like this weekend’s festivities when he went to support former Piston - and now Hall of Famer - Ben Wallace. Oh, one more thing. He’s also the person in NBA history with a winning record against MIchael Jordan (6-4), Kobe Bryant (24-21) and LeBron James (22-17).
One of my favorite players when the WNBA was in Detroit, Cash’s versatility at both ends of the floor was a sight to behold. She was a standout at every level, often walking away with the top prize. Two championships at the University of Connecticut; a four-time WNBA All-Star (and two-time All-Star game MVP) not to mention three WNBA champions along with being regarded as one of the 25 best players in WNBA history. Currently the Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development with the New Orleans Pelicans, Cash should garner strong consideration when the selection committee pours over potential inductees.
One of the best high-flying, above-the-rim ballers of his time, posterizing was his specialty. But as we all saw, the beauty of Chambers’ game was that he could dunk on you one minute and calmly splash a 20-footer the next. A career 18.1 points per game scorer in 16 seasons, he is remembered fondly for powerful dunk over Mark Jackson. But in terms of contributions, none might be greater than him signing a five-year, $9 million deal with the Phoenix Suns in 1988 as the league’s first unrestricted free agent signing.
“Sweet” Lou Hudson
Shout-out to the original “Sweet Lou” in Atlanta, whose impact doesn’t get its due outside of the A-T-L. Hudson played 13 seasons while averaging an impressive 20.2 points per game, good enough to be named to six All-Star teams. He retired in 1979 having scored 17,940 points which at the time ranked 12th on the league’s all-time scoring list. Despite his impressive statistics, most of Hudson’s career was in Atlanta where the Hawks’ lack of success factored in Hudson being overlooked during his playing days, and afterwards. That shouldn’t diminish from what was an impressive career for Hudson, who died April 11, 2014.
If there was ever a time for Bobby Jones to get into the Hall of Fame, this is it. One of the best frontcourt defenders to ever play in the NBA, Jones was everything you would want in a superstar role player. A four-time All-Star, Jones was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team nine times. And he did his work coming off the bench. His play was the reason why we have a Sixth Man of the Year award now, an award whose initial recipient was - you guessed it - Bobby Jones. And that doesn’t include the years in the ABA when he was a two-time All-ABA defender. All of these folks are Hall-of-Fame worthy. But considering Jones hasn’t played since 1986 and the Hall just welcomed in one of the game’s most elite defenders in Wallace, there should be room for Jones who like Wallace, was instrumental in his team (Philadelphia, 1983) winning a championship in large part because of his contributions defensively.
So that’s my Hall of Fame starting five. Who you got?