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The Inbounds: For the 500th time, we need an NBA Hall of Fame


When I make this column, as I do every year, I go through the usual flip side. Do we really need a Hall of Fame? Is there anyone who should be included in a Hall of Fame for the NBA that is not or will not be in the Naismith? Is recognition in the Naismith not enough accomplishment? Is there really the demand to satisfy fans desire to attend a NBA-only Hall? What’s the problem?

The problem is not that Reggie Miller, Don Nelson, and Ralph Sampson are being inducted tonight alongside people whose accomplishments were not in the NBA. That’s not it at all. I’m not arguing for the elimination of the Naismith Hall, if anything, I want there to be a higher level of regard to those who have genuinely contributed to the sport, not just the league. But to lump the NBA in with every other organized basketball entity on the planet is to insult both sides. The NBA is its own creature, far removed from Europe’s basketball cultural evolution, profoundly different from the NCAA’s particular brand of madness, and not at all truly entwined with international competition.

It’s its own thing.

And it’s a big thing.

When you think of basketball, you’re either going to think of the NCAA tournament or the NBA. I’m not here to try and inflate the importance of pro basketball over college. March Madness is a wonderful entity and should have its own recognition of greatness.

Funny thing. It does.

College gets to celebrate its wonderful moments and players, the people who form the tapestry of its rich and legendary history. Why doesn’t the NBA? Why should the NBA run cover for all forms of basketball? Again, I don’t mind the association of the NBA with the Hall. It’s good that the NBA brings some attention which gets drawn to the other inductees whose accomplishments may not be as well known but are often equal or greater to those of the millionaire superstars molded to statue.

But it’s the lack of a Hall for the NBA, without the ability to recognize people who clearly belong, but likely won’t because the Naismith is trying to cram in all of basketball. What winds up happening is worthy people from outside of the NBA who would go overlooked otherwise get in, while completely worthy people from the ranks of the NBA are excluded.

I’ll admit it, I love Bill Simmons’ Pyramid idea for the Hall. It’s innovative, and it serves two purposes at once. It allows us to induct those who are worthy of enshrinement, but not next to the greatest of the greats, while providing an opportunity to set those players aside.

Reggie Miller is entering the Hall alongside Phil Knight, for crying out loud. I don’t have an issue with Knight being inducted, You can’t argue the impact he’s had on the game. He belongs in the Naismith. But Reggie freaking Miller deserves to enter enshrinement alongside Nelson and Sampson, Wilkes and Daniels, by themselves. Their contributions to the sport of basketball may be equal, but not to the NBA.

I’ve long held that the best thing about the NBA is that you can’t take it too seriously. This is a league of tape-delay Finals, coked out history, flopping franchises, lottery conspiracy theories, trade vetoes and Planet Lovetron. That’s what makes this league so great. The sheer absurdity of it. But you can’t have all that without also recognizing the greatness and history of the playoffs and Finals. Jordan, Magic, Bird, Kareem, Wilt, Olajuwon, Russell, Moses, Walton, Duncan, Shaq, Kobe, Dirk, LeBron, Wade. That’s a whole other level of basketball greatness and that’s just scratching the surface. The league has been around for over 60 years. It’s got a story to tell, and it deserves a building to tell it in. It deserves to recognize the best of the best, and the great players and people who contributed to what it has become.

The NBA having its own Hall won’t lead to total destruction of the Naismith. Basketball culture won’t crumble into a sponsored dystopia. (Though you can bet the league will make a huge profit on it that way — and hey, maybe that way we can avoid another lockout!) Everything will be fine if we recognize the accomplishments of those to the sport of basketball, and those specifically to the National Basketball Association. We lose nothing, we gain a lot.

We live in a world where stories are told in more volume and with more accessibility than at any time in our history as a species. We’re not fighting for bandwidth. There’s room in the basketball collective consciousness for both the Naismith Hall and the NBA Hall.

The league too often has deferred throughout its history, has shied away from flexing its muscle (unless it’s in a labor dispute). It’s time. The NBA’s worthy of its own Hall of Fame.

Let’s build it.

Justin Anderson cuts under basket, reaches back for putback dunk (video)

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One player dunking on another is always fantastic.

But some of the best jams come when the dunker artfully dodges defenders in the first place.

Mavericks forward Justin Anderson did that with this putback slam against the Pacers last night.

Wednesday featured a ridiculous number of players getting dunked on (videos)

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 26:  Willie Cauley-Stein #00 of the Sacramento Kings slam dunks the ball over Marquese Chriss #0 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the preseason NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 26, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Twenty NBA teams started their seasons last night, providing a glorious onslaught of basketball unlike anything we’ve seen in months.

One of the best parts? It seems players forgot they were supposed to duck out of the way, rather than defend, dunks.

That led to some fantastic slams

Gerald Henderson on Domantas Sabonis:

Lance Stephenson on Kenneth Faried:

Jonas Valanciunas on Boban Marjanovic:

Willie-Cauley Stein on Marquese Chriss:

‘Our 49 Pulse angels’: Orlando Magic honor those killed in nightclub

A banner printed with the names of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims and 49, the number of people who died in the shooting, is unveiled in the Amway Center during a tribute prior to an NBA basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — There’s nothing that can give Mayra Alvear back what she lost, or ease her pain, or calm her anger.

With one gesture, she at least felt some joy again.

Underneath a softly swaying banner displaying the number 49 – commemorating the number of lives lost – and as first responders unfurled and held a massive American flag for the national anthem, the Orlando Magic paid tribute Wednesday night to the victims and survivors of the Pulse gay nightclub massacre with an emotional ceremony immediately before the team’s season-opener against the Miami Heat.

“We felt the recognition needed to be significant,” Magic president Alex Martins said. “We think part of the healing process for our community is making sure we don’t forget. And we felt it was most appropriate that we do it on opening night, so it receives the proper recognition and exposure – but also gave the greatest number of our fans the opportunity to recognize and remember.”

Some survivors were present, as were some relatives of those who were killed on June 12 in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman, Omar Mateen, was killed after a three-hour standoff during an exchange of fire with SWAT team members.

“What the Orlando Magic are doing is amazing, is beautiful. I’m honored and grateful,” said Alvear, the mother of Pulse victim Amanda Alvear. “That they are lifting the number 49 out of respect, a symbol for our 49 Pulse angels, it has a deep meaning – demonstration of love and that they care, that all of them will be remembered.”

The nightclub remains fenced off, yet is still attracting a daily stream of mourners. Banners on the fence are dotted with thousands of handwritten messages from visitors, with some flowers and candles on the ground.

Martins was the chair of OneOrlando, a fund that collected $29.5 million in donations that’s being distributed to 299 claimants. At the time of the shooting, the Magic were just a few weeks removed from the hiring of Frank Vogel as their new coach, and less than three weeks away from a free-agent period where the roster would be greatly revamped.

But Martins quickly volunteered anyway, helping oversee the massive task.

“One of the ways that I felt I could help, that I could assist, was to help with the administration of the fund,” Martins said. “So I raised my hand immediately.”

The tribute coming before a Magic-Heat game was fitting, given how many of those affected by the events of that night were from South Florida.

It was particularly poignant to one survivor.

Heat employee Laura Vargas was shot twice that night. She can recall every detail – the strobe lights, the Heineken in her hand, how she was putting away her ID as she heard the first shots. She remembers watching Mateen reload a weapon, the blood pouring from her wounds, even the look on the police officer’s face when she was rescued.

Her best friend, Luis Vielma, who Vargas said was straight, was one of the victims.

“It’s not even just about me,” Vargas said. “It’s coping that he’s not there anymore. It’s a lot to carry around.”

Vargas isn’t able yet to resume work. She was at the arena the Heat call home last week for an event called “Loud And Proud” that celebrated the LGBTQ community, but couldn’t shake the feeling Mateen was there. Her flashbacks and nightmares are terrifying – she said she had “a total breakdown” recently at Disney when a fireworks show sounded like gunfire.

Nights like Wednesday, she said, make it all a bit easier.

“The love that’s come out of this is not fading,” Vargas said. “It brings me comfort to know that my best friend is one of the reasons why this world is a little bit less crappy, that his life isn’t just forgotten. No. He made a difference. And he would be happy to know that even with the chaos, the horror, he made a change.”

This was not a one-night commitment for the Magic, who have contributed both money and staff resources to the ongoing healing process and plan to continue. In addition to the banner, the team aired a video in tribute and invited singer Brandon Parsons – who composed a song called “Forty-Nine Times” – to perform pregame.

Parsons’ song included this phrase: “Takes more than just a gun, more than you to tear us down, so let your colors fly free.”

“It’s been so impactful since the day of that event,” said Otto Drozd, the Fire Chief for Orange County Fire Rescue. “This is part of the healing process. We continue to remember the 49 that lost their lives and those that were injured that night, and really, we do that because we don’t want to relive it.”

Joel Embiid hits shots, blocks Westbrook, looks good in debut


And somewhere, Sam Hinkie weeps.

After two seasons on the sidelines with foot injuries, Joel Embiid played his first NBA game Wednesday night — and he looked good — 20 points, seven rebounds, and a couple of blocked shots. The Philadelphia crowd loved him — when he opened the game with a nice move and free-throw line jumper, followed by a block of Russell Westbrook, the arena nearly exploded. He was later serenaded with “trust the process” chants as he shot free throws.

He’s still a work in progress — he tried to do too much rather than let the game come to him. That led to 7-of-17 shooting and him chasing blocks on defense and getting out of position. He played like an over-amped rookie. Which he was. (Apparently, some Philly fans were a little over-amped, too.)

But one with a world of talent. The Sixers have something here.