In some ways, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame benefits from its amazing breadth. It houses not just NBA stars from decades past, but college players, international contributors, coaches, women players, referees, Phil Knight -- it's totally comprehensive with regards to the sport. That's a gift for visitors to the actual Hall.
But all of that inclusion and the bizarre way in which nominees for the Hall are vetted make the whole thing far too complicated for fans to invest in.
I mean, it's really difficult for fans to even have a healthy Hall of Fame debate. On Friday, the Hall will announce the finalists for the 2013 class. I'd wager that most basketball fans have no clue how nominees become finalists and how finalists become inductees. And without having a clue as to how it works, how are we supposed to be outraged at the exclusion of Player X? Only long-term exclusions ever get any public push -- think Dennis Johnson.
In 2011 the Hall added two critical committees to represent potential inductees that had been left in the cold for so long: an ABA committee and a committee focused on black basketball pioneers. This could fix some of the more egregious omissions (like Artis Gilmore, who was finally inducted in 2011). Those two committees directly elect up to one player each into the Hall every year. But other major issues remain, and a bit of clarity in the process could help.
For instance, while there are separate women's and international commitees to screen those candidates before passing them up the chain to an "honors committee", college and pro American nominees are combined. Sometimes, this makes sense: college stars often become NBA stars. Someone like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a no-brainer in both arenas. But then you have incredible college players whose NBA careers do not stand out as worthy of Hall inclusion. Bill Walton would be an example here. (Walton was inducted in 1993.)
But one pool of anonymous judges is picking the college and pro nominees together. And then those are referred to the honors committee, which is made up of 24 anonymous judges. In practice, this arrangement has resulted in some inductees that made no discernible impression on the sport outside of four years of college. Meanwhile, it takes decades for someone like Gilmore -- an 11-time All-Star between the ABA and NBA, a champion, an MVP -- to get in.
Given that pro and amateur cases are considered holistically, and that international contributions are rolled in too, you end up comparing apples to kumquats. The cleanest solution: create a separate NBA Hall of Fame or a separate college Hall of Fame. Then you can recognize the Tyler Hansbroughs and the LeBron Jameses at the same time. (Oh God, is Tyler Hansbrough going to make the Hall of Fame some day?)
But that's not likely to happen at this point. So the next best step, in my opinion, would be to release the names of the judges on the various committees. You don't have to release their votes, but knowing who is making the decision to elect these players to the Hall would help fans feel a little more comfortable with the process, I think. If we could see that 12 retired college coaches or writers were on the honors committee, we could judge expectations accordingly. If we see some other skew on the committees, we can raise flags on behalf of players and coaches we feel deserve a look. Again, public ballots aren't necessary. Just knowing which cardinals are making the calls seems like easy, strong progress.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant had themselves games on Thursday in the Heat's big win, but Chris Paul! CP3, the third wheel in the MVP conversation, racked up 24 points, 13 assists, three turnovers in 32 minutes. He assisted on an estimated 56 percent of his teammates' shots while on the floor, and had an offensive rating of 155. And his opponent, Steve Nash, shot 3-9 for seven points with five assists and three turnovers in 24 minutes.
* All I need to say here is "Wright Thompson, Michael Jordan, longform." That might be the most clickworthy five-word sentence possible. My favorite scene -- and there are so many to choose from -- is when MJ tears apart the Chicago mansion he's leaving behind and cannot find two of his six championship rings (No. 2 and No. 5). Picturing MJ in that panic ... man. The idea of MJ, Charles Oakley and Rod Higgins playing ping pong in a basement while blasting Whitney Houston's first album is also so magical. This profile doesn't need my endorsement, but I feel morally compelled to offer it.
* Henry Abbott writes about whether Billy Hunter will attend the National Basketball Players Association meeting this weekend in Houston, where Hunter's future as the executive director of the union will possibly be decided. At least one agent (Arn Tellem) is arguing that Hunter nor any other paid union staff member should attend; players should make the decision absent influence. With all due respect to Tellem, to act as if Hunter is the only one manipulating players here is absurd. Tellem has loudly endorsed the removal of Hunter to his clients and anyone who would listen. Instead of barring Hunter from making his case, everyone involved should be allowed to attend, be heard and judged. Players should ask tough questions. After the independent report of Hunter's leadership, which is damning in places, Hunter should have to defend his actions. Barring Hunter might make the meeting go more quickly and would perhaps delay a decision until the summer, but players deserve to hear Hunter try to explain the charges. Regardless, it seems rather clear based on reports that Hunter is not long for the position.