Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Worst of the Best: Basketball Hall of Fame's Worst Players by Position

Continuing with our series of the worst Hall of Famers in sports history is today's post about the bottom of the top-notch, the Basketball Hall of Fame's worst players by position. If you are interested, you can read the previous entries about the pro football and baseball Hall of Fame's worst of the best here and here, respectively. So, let's get started, shall we?

SF: Bill Bradley, Playing Career 1968-1977, Inducted 1983

Bradley was a two time All-American at Princeton and considered one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. After his playing career, Bradley had a quite successful career in politics, even running for the presidential nomination for the democratic party in 2000, eventually losing to Al Gore. His NBA career, however, can best be described as unspectacular. His best season took place in 1973, where Bradley averaged 16.1 points and 4.5 assists per game for a championship New York Knicks team. Those numbers are remarkably similar to Rodney Stuckey's numbers last year (16.8 ppg, 4.8 apg) and nobody around the NBA regards Stuckey as a potential Hall of Famer at this point. Bradley never finished in the top 10 in any statistcal category except for free throw percentage, and made only one All-Star game. During his career, Bradley's averages (12.4, ppg, 3.2 rpg, and 3.4 apg) are similar to Willie Anderson (12.2, 3.8, and 3.8) and if Willie Anderson is a Hall of Famer, then I'll play chicken on I-285. Bradley was a decent player who got in mainly because of his fame and because his teams won two championships in New York, although Bradley was, at best, the fourth best player on those teams.

If Bradley is in, then why not:

Bernard King?  King, like Bradley, also played for the Knicks, as well as the Nets, Warriors, Jazz, and Bullets. King, however, could fill up the basket at will. A four time All-Star, King led the NBA in points per game in 1984-85 (32.9), and finished in the top ten in that stat four other seasons. King was also a two-time first team All NBA forward, and his career 22.5 PPG average is the highest among eligible players not yet elected in the Hall of Fame. Not only that, but King had a higher career scoring average than Hall of Famers Alex English, Clyde Drexler, Billy Cunningham, Bob Mcadoo, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, and many other Hall of Famers. True, King never won an NBA Championship, nor did he come close, but he was a much better player than Bradley, and if King hadn't of suffered a horrific knee injury that basically took two years off his prime, who knows what kind of numbers King would have posted.

PF: Clyde Lovellette, 1954-1964, Inducted 1988

Like Bradley, Lovellette was a superstar in college, a three time All-American and the Most Outstanding Player of the 1952 Final Four for Kansas. In the NBA, Lovellette wasn't a bad player, making four All-Star games and average over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in five separate seasons.  However, Lovellette was never the best player on any of his teams, and his statisitcs are very comparable to players like Willie Naulls, who will never get in to the Hall of Fame barring some unforseen remarkable occurrence. For his career, Lovellette finished averaging 17.0 ppg and 9.6 rpg, numbers similar to George McGinnis's NBA numbers (17.2, 9.8), and that's not counting McGinnis's ABA career. Lovellette made only one All-NBA team (a second team selection in 1955-56 and his large numbers are somewhat due to the fact that teams took a lot more shots per game during his career than today, so everybody's points and rebounds totals were inflated.

If Lovellette is in, then why not:

Rudy LaRusso? LaRusso is largely forgotten today (his Wikipedia entry has more about Gilligan's Island than anything LaRusso accomplished on the basketball court), but during his 10-year career, LaRusso played in five All-Star games, one more than Lovellette. During his first eight years, LaRusso was the man that did the dirty work for the Lakers while superstars Jerry West and Elgin Baylor did most of the scoring, which must have worked, as the Lakers played in five NBA Finals with LaRusso. Once LaRusso was traded to Golden State, he transformed his game, becoming a 20 ppg scorer for the Warriors and keeping up his solid defense, earning a spot on the NBA Defensive second team in 1968-69. Unfortunately, a chronically sore back caused LaRusso to retire after the 1969 season at age 31, despite coming off a season where he averaged 20.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Nevertheless, his career averages (15.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg) are quite comparable to Lovellette, and he played one more All-Star game than Lovellette, so maybe the Dartmouth alum has a case for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

C- Walt Bellamy, 1962-1975, Inducted 1993

Bellamy has some impressive numbers, to be sure. For his career, Bellamy scored 20,941 points, grabbed 14,241 rebounds (ninth all time), averaged 13.7 rebounds per game (seventh in NBA history) was the rookie of the year in 1961-62 with an impressive 31.6 ppg and 19.0 rpg, finishing second and third in each category. Bellamy was also a four-time All-Star, although curiously he never made an All-Star team after 1965. So why is Bellamy on this list as the worst center in the Hall of Fame. Well, one reason is that this was the toughest postion to choose from, but the other thing is that for all of his stats, Bellamy seemed to never make an impact on the game. He never made an all-league first or second team, he never led the league in a category other than field goal percentage in his rookie year, and he never won an NBA Title. In fact, Bellamy never even played in the NBA Finals, and his teams only got as far as the conference finals twice, this in spite of the fact that the playoffs only had three rounds instead of four during his career. In Bellamy's 13 full seasons, his teams missed the playoffs six times. Yes, Bellamy put up some great numbers, but that's all he did.

If Bellamy is in, then why not:

Artis Gilmore? Gilmore, like Bellamy, never won an NBA Title, never played in an NBA Finals. However, Gilmore did play in two ABA Finals, and his 1975 Kentucky Colonels won the ABA Title. During his five year ABA Career, Gilmore led the league in total rebounds in each five seasons, and in rebounds per game four out of five seasons. Gilmore also finished his ABA career as the league's all time leader in blocked shots with 1,431. Once he moved on to the NBA, Gilmore continued to be a top-notch center, playing in six NBA All-Star games, finish in the top 10 in blocks per game six times, in rebounds per game seven times, and he led the league in field goal percentage for four straight seasons. Gilmore has the highest field goal percentage (.599) in NBA history, and only three players in professional basketball history have more blocks than Gilmore's 3,178. His detractors will point out that Gilmore was a better player in the ABA, but so was Gilmore's teammate Dan Issel, and Issel is in the Hall of Fame in spite of the fact that when the Colonels had to trade one of the two, they kept Gilmore and dealt Issel, so it's obvious who Kentucky thought was the better player.

SG: Calvin Murphy - 1971-1983, Inducted 1993

Murphy was also a three time All-American before his pro career, with Murphy playing his college ball at Niagara University. One of the best free throw shooters in NBA history, if not the best, Murphy's .892 free throw percentage ranks seventh all-time. For his career, Murphy averaged 17.9 ppg and 4.4 apg, which are actually quite similar numbers to Charlie Scott's career if you take out his two years in the ABA (17.9, 4.8). Murphy averaged over 20 points per game in five different seasons, and finished in the top ten in apg in two seasons. However, Murphy never made an All-NBA team, played in only one All-Star game (1979), and his teams missed the playoffs more times than they made it (seven to six). Sure, Murphy's college career was impressive and probably helped him get elected, but I'm just not seeing how he can be considered a Hall of Famer, unless we credit him with having 14 kids by nine different women.

If Murphy is in, then why not:

Randy Smith? Smith, like Murphy, was undersized for his positon (the 6'2" Smith had to play a lot of small forward during his career). But that didn't stop Smith from excelling. A two time All-Star, Smith also was the MVP of the 1978 All-Star game and was named to the All-NBA second team in 1976. During his career, Smith averaged 20 or more points in four different seasons, finished in the top 10 in steals in five seasons, and is 25th in NBA history with 1.7 steals per game. Smith also played in 906 consecutive games, setting an all-time record (since broken by A.C. Green). For his career, Smith finished with an average of 16.7 ppg, 4.6 apg, and 1.7 steals per game. Not bad for a seventh round pick not expected to make the team as a rookie in 1972.

PG: KC Jones - 1959-1967, Inducted 1989

Jones is in the Hall of Fame solely because he was part of the Celtics Dynasty in the sixties, picking up eight championship rings from 1959-1966. Then again, Jones played with players such as Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Sam Jones, among others, so you can see why he won eight championships. In his own right, Jones was considered a top-notch defender and a glue guy for the Celtics. That's all well and good, but here's the thing. Jones was never named to an All-Star game, never even averaged more than 10 points a season and finished his career with a career average of 7.4 points a game and a .387 shooting percentage from the field. Jones played nine seasons, played starter's minutes (over 30 per game) for only four of those seasons, and was an offensive zero that never made an All-Star team. I think it's safe to say that the only reason Jones is in the Basketball Hall of Fame is because of the success of the teams he played on, not anything he did to stand out individually.

If Jones is in, then why not:

Jo Jo White?  White was the Celtics' point guard shortly after Jones left, and while he may have only two Championship rings to his credit, there's little doubt that White was the more valuable player. White was a seven time All-Star during his career, and also has two All-NBA second team selections to his credit. During his peak years (1971-77), White averaged 19.8 points and 5.5 assists per game, and was also named the MVP of the 1976 NBA Finals. Like Jones, White's number has been retired by the Celtics, yet he still remains on the outside of the Hall's doors in spite of being one of the best guards of his era and a key contributor to two Championship teams.

Well, thanks for reading. If you happen to agree or disagree with my selections, than feel free to express your opinions on this topic. If you have any comments on this post, or ideas for future posts, than send me them either by leaving a comment or by e-mail at kthec2001@gmail.com.


  1. A new winner of worst HOF will some be inducted. Dennis Rodman is not a HOFer. Its one of the worst decision the Hall has ever made. It's a shame that he will be in the same room as Wilt, Russell, Baylor and West.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yeah, Rodman is borderline at best. Still, Bradley, along with relative newcomer Ralph Sampson, are the 2 worst selections the Hall has made.

  2. You basically answered why Bradley and Lovellette are in: their college careers. Prior the the 90's, you get the definite sense that many of the HOF voters viewed a player's pro career as a mere sideshow after his *real* career in college. (Note how few pro *coaches* were elected in that era, compared to college coaches!)

    Bellamy and Murphy must have had some good friends among the voters, or something. K.C., meanwhile, made Scottie Pippen look unlucky! I don't see any rush to put B.J. Armstrong in the HOF.

    1. You make some good points. What a lot of people forget is that until the mid-1960's or thereabouts, most fans paid more attention to college basketball, and with good reason: the quality of play was often higher than it was in the NBA. Until the mid-60's, the NBA was a relatively low-paying league that had franchises in places like Providence, Syracuse, Fort Wayne and--are you ready for this?--Sheboygan. Very often, the best college players opted not to play in the NBA.

      About Walt Bellamy: With all due respect (He passed recently.), I think he will be best remembered as the guy who got traded for Dave DeBusschere. Yes, believe it or not, there was a time when the Knicks used to make good deals!

    2. I believe Murphy belongs. But K.C sure doesn't. At least not as a player. Definitely a good case can be made for Randy Smith. Underrated and excellent.