On Monday evening, I watched the National Championship game at Old Town tavern, which was a relatively brainless (but in no way shocking) decision, as the mounted TV’s 25-inch screen appears to be coated with a viscous substance that I will assume, for all intents and purposes, is hurled biscuit gravy. And by hurled, I mean thrown. Of course. I was meeting a friend and neither of us are exactly rocket scientists, or even scientists or any kind, so we decided, “Hey let’s watch the game on the worst TV left in America.”
In the midst of watching the UConn Man-Huskies (probably the lousiest National Champion I have ever witnessed) perform an alien autopsy on the Butler Bulldogs (about as well coached a basketball team as I have ever seen crap the bed) we began speaking about the 2011 Basketball Hall of Fame inductees announced earlier that day. I casually mentioned that, without Reggie Miller, I thought it was a very weak class, save for my man Arvydas Sabonis, the Lithuanian strongman, who was an incredible player in his day — sometime around the 16th century. Sabonis was, without question, the best passing center to ever play the game. He is what Tex Winters (creator of the triangle offense and fellow inductee) dreamt about when he came up with his simple-complicated plan of having big-galoot-as-rock-distributor.
There were a couple of others that I won’t pretend to know or care anything about. And also, wickedly sideburned Artis Gilmore, another big galoot (albeit one that couldn’t really pass) and a guy who was on the Globetrotters from a time when the team could actually play full games without taking time off to clown rich white kids courtside with pails of confetti. But the committee proclaimed them all to be fit to be feted, even the ladies, and so I’ll take their word on that.
Or will I?
For starters, I had my doubts about Chris Mullin’s inclusion. When I said that, I thought that my friend’s exaggerated double take would actually paralyze him. I loved watching Mullin at St. John’s, but I can’t ever remember him being the best player on his NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, despite having five insane years, averaging 25 and 5. (Mitch Richmond was always a little better.) And I could name 20 guys that scored as many or more career points that are not Hall of Famers, who could take him. (Here are three right off the bat: Bernard King, Spencer Haywood and Sidney Moncrief. Trust me, I have 17 more all ready to go.)
But when I got home and looked up Mullin’s career stats — because that’s when I do my best research: hours after I make a blanket statement in a bar — I realized that he deserved to be included because of the totality of his career: high school, college, the NBA and international. He’s still borderline in my eyes, but now he’s on the good side of that border.
But I’m firm on Dennis Rodman, whose inclusion is the real wellspring of my ire. His presence in the Hall of Fame rewards one-dimensional players for winning championships in a team sport. He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year (’90 and ’91) but he was only named to the NBA All-Star team twice as well (’90 and ’92.) He may have five championship rings, but the Pistons, Bulls and Spurs were great, deep squads.
In some games, Rodman scored zero points, and in none of them, was he an offensive force. He may have averaged 13.1 rebounds per game over his career, but he only scored 7.3 points a game. In the playoffs, his number shrunk to 9.9 and 6.4. Putting an incomplete player like him in the Hall is like crowning a headless woman Miss America.
I’m not dismissing defense. While Rodman was named NBA’s All-Defensive First Team seven times in his career, I don’t hold that feat in the same regard as Michael Jordan’s nine times, or Kobe’s eight. Why not? Because those players added defense to the existing burden of scoring, and setting other players up. Running an offense. Playing on both ends of the court. Rodman never had to worry about anything other than not losing his head, rebounding and fronting on defense. Sure he was great at it, but he never elevated his game to be anything more than what he was: the third or fourth best player on any team on which he played.
But it’s too late now, I realize: once again, no one asked me and now a staggeringly one-dimensional player is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. And I’m sure that in his eyes, everything from here on in is gravy.
Tony Gervino is a New York City-based editor and writer obsessed with honing his bio to make him sound quirky. He can also be found here.
Photo by Eric Molina via Flickr.