The NBA doesn’t have a Hall of Fame, leaving the duty of honoring its all-time greats to the Basketball Hall of Fame – an organization hung up on honoring players and coaches (way too many coaches) based on accomplishments at lesser levels. Its processes are both screwed up and secretive (though maybe the former will get marginally better).
Advice: Never predict who will be enshrined, and don’t dwell on who should be enshrined. It doesn’t make sense and won’t make sense.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a few moments to honor those elected in what’s still a huge honor. Five former NBA players were finalists this year, and two were reportedly elected.
Mourning’s career overlapped with a some of the NBA’s all-time great centers: Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal. Mourning might not be in the same class as those four, but he was smaller (6-foot-10, 240 pounds) than them and still held his own, adding to the era’s remarkable pivots rather than falling short of the standard. With a bulldog attitude, Mourning dominated defensively, hit the glass hard and scored strongly inside.
He began his career with the Charlotte Hornets, but when he demanded a huge new contract, they traded him to the Miami Heat. Mourning became the Heat’s first star player, helping to make Miami a cool place to play and possibly laying the groundwork for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to sign there years later.
Multiple times, it appeared kidney disease would end Mourning’s career, and he even retired in 2003. But he retuned to the NBA, and in his second stint with the Heat, he won the 2006 championship as a role player.
Richmond was a pure and dependable scorer, ranking 12th all time with 10 seasons averaging at least 21 points per game. For a while, he and Reggie Miller vied for the title of No. 2 shooting guard in the world behind Michael Jordan.
As a long-range gunner, Richmond was ahead of his time. When Richmond retired, only Dale Ellis, Glen Rice and Reggie Miller had taken more 3-pointers (3,417) and made a higher percentage of them (38.8).
But Richmond never experienced much team-wide success, at least as a major contributor. He won just two playoff series his entire career, one each his rookie and third seasons as a Golden State Warrior. After that, he made the playoffs only once in seven seasons with the Sacramento Kings and never in three seasons with the Washington Wizards. In his final season, 2001-02, Richmond won a championship with the Lakers as a little-used reserved.
Hardaway, Johnson and Hayood could be elected in future seasons. Each had fine careers.
But with the Basketball Hall of Fame, who knows?