NBA Hall of Fame Class of 2006: Let the Debating Begin

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: April 4, 2006

NORTH CAROLINIA—The votes are in and the select few have been chosen for this year’s NBA HALL OF FAME Inductees. Charles Barkley, Dave Gavitt, Domonique Wilkins, Geno Auriemma, Joe Dumars and Italian Coach Sandro Gamba all will receive the honor of induction into the HALL OF FAME this September in Springfield Mass. This year’s group will face the questions and debates of who should have got in and who should have not as in previous years gone by.

The talk at the water cooler in offices around the country, chat rooms and sport shows on tv and radio and dialogue among the pro basketball players of today and yesterday. WHO REALLY IS A HALL OF FAMER IN THIS DISTINGUISH CLASS OF 2006? Distinguish is the word I use because all of these candidates that will join others in the “HALL OF IMMORTALITY”, have given to the game of basketball in some way shape or form. But are they great? Are they really great or really good? With apologies to the Italian coach Sandro Gamba whom I never met and/or seen coach, I wanted to focus on those that gave to the american game of basketball both professionally and collegiclly.

Now IN MY OPINION, I believe Charles Barkley, Joe Dumars, Geno Auriemma and Dave Gavitt should be “locks” in everyone’s basketball minds and we can look at their resume to prove it. So excluding Mr Gamba, that’s four men in and one left to decide on. Domonique Wilkins. Wilkins, “the human highlight film”, dazzled basketball fans in Atlanta, the country and the world for years with his high-flying moves and powerful dunks that left jaws open with amazement and excitement.

“NIQUE”(as some NBA players called him), battled hard on the court and was one of the most dominating offensive players of his time. Offensive is the key word. But did Domonique Wilkins make the many players that wore the Atlanta Hawks jersey better? Did he lead his team to the playoffs, Conference Finals or NBA Finals? Did he strike fear into opponents on the defensive end of the court, on the boards or when opponents drove the lanes against him? Well some would say he played the one on one defense that bull fighters display as they try and tame a bull charging at them in a bull ring. The “OLAY” defense! The kind of defense that allows the opponent he is guarding to just go pass him for an easy basket. The kind of defense that can be deemed rather “OFFENSIVE”(and I don’t mean his scoring). These were attributes that “SIR CHARLES” Barkley possessed throughout his illustrious career with stops in Philadelphia, Phoenix and Houston. Well maybe when he didnt when he got to Houston but by then, he cemented his shoes into to the HALL OF FAME.

Joe Dumars won 2 NBA Championships on those “BAD BOY” teams and was the solid guard that defended the other teams best scorer even if the player was bigger or faster. Dumars didnt have great numbers in scoring, assist or steals but he was the steady rock and a model of consistency on the court and class off the court. He also played BIG when the Pistons needed him to play BIG. Isiah Thomas got the glory while Dumars did the dirty work and kept the team balanced and poised.

What about Geno Auriemma and Dave Gavitt? Both successful coaches and ambassadors of the “ball” they represent. Auriemma took a women’s basketball program at UCONN and made it into one of the elite powers in women’s basketball winning 5 National Championships and counting. Not bad for the Philly kid that they said couldnt make it. Mr. Gavitt, a great coach at Providence and a guru and innovator in beginning a college basketball league. Gavitt is the originator and founder of the Big East Conference. Gavitt oversaw basketball programs that produced such college basketball greats like Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, “Pearl” Washington and great teams like the ’83-’84 Georgetown team that dominated on their way to a National Championship over Hakeem Olijuwan and the “phi slama jama” Houston Cougars. Like the ’84-’85 Villanova Wildcats who shocked the world and shot lights out in winning the National Championship against that same Georgetown Hoya team with Ewing, Wingate and Williams trying to defend their Championship from the previous year.

All four of these men made a difference in their own way in the moment in time and era they were in and the circumstances they faced in their perspective careers. They either changed the game, made a difference in the game, made their teammates better players on the court, made the institutions better or were pioneers of their basketball craft. Wilkins, albeit a “first class” scorer and athletic “freak”, was not in that class, therefore should not have made the HALL OF FAME. Let’s check out the staticstics.

Charles Barkley:

During career with the Philadelphia 76ers (1984-1992), the Phoenix Suns (1992-1996) and the Houston Rockets (1996-2000), Barkley was selected to 11 NBA All-Star games.

• An All-NBA First Team pick five times and an All-NBA Second Team pick five times • Averaged 22.1 points per game and almost 12 rebounds per game in his 16-year NBA career • Shares the single game record for most offensive rebounds in one quarter (11 in 1987).

• Named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in the 1993 season.

• Member of NBA’s 50th Anniversary team • He won an Olympic gold medal with the 1992 United States Olympic Dream Team

Barkley scored 23,757 career points, grabbed 12,546 career rebounds and what a career 54 percent shooter from the floor.

Joe Dumars:

Played entire professional career for the Detroit Pistons • Member of back-to-back NBA Champions (1989 & 1990) • NBA All-Rookie Selection (1986) • NBA All-Defensive First Team four times (1989, 1990, 1992, 1993) • Six-time NBA All-Star • MVP of the 1989 NBA Finals

Dumars finished his career 1st in Detroit Pistons history in games played(1,018) and 3 point field goals made(990) and second in points, assist and steals.

Geno Auriemma:

• Began coaching career as an assistant girls coach at Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote, Penn. (1976-1978) • Other career stops: assistant women’s coach at St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia, PAa) (1978-1979), assistant boys’ coach, Bishop Kenrick High School (Norristown, Pa) (1979-1981), assistant women’s coach, University of Virginia (1981-1985).

• Became the women’s coach at the University of Connecticut in 1985 • Has coached Connecticut to five National Championships, eight Final Four appearances, 14 Big East regular season and 12 Big East tournament titles. Also, two undefeated seasons.

• Five-time National Coach of the Year five times • Assistant coach of the United States Gold Medal Team in the 2000 Olympics, head coach of the United States gold medal team at the 2000 Junior World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Argentina and head coach of the United States Bronze Medal Team at the 2001 FIBA Junior World Championship in Czech Republic.

David Gavitt:

Founder of the Big East Conference in 1979 • Head coach at Providence College, where his teams had nine straight 20-win seasons, five NCAA Tournament appearances and one Final Four • Chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee (1982-1984). Responsible for the expansion of the tournament to 64 teams, the use of domed stadiums for the Final Four, and expanded TV coverage • Became the President of USA Basketball (1988-1992) • Served as the Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Directors until 2003.

Domonique Wilkins:

NBA career includes stops with Atlanta Hawks (1982-1994), LA Clippers (1994), Boston Celtics (1994-95), San Antonio Spurs (1996-97) and Orlando Magic (1998-99) • Nine-time NBA All-Star (1986-1994) • Two-time NBA Slam Dunk Champion • One of only three Atlanta Hawks to have his jersey (21) retired • Nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film” • Played collegiately at the University of Georgia • Parade High School All-American

Domonique has the unfortunate position of having the second most points in NBA history for a player never to have won and NBA Championship(26,668). Karl Malone is first on the list with 36,928 points but at least he took his team to 2 NBA Final appearances.

Now i’m sure proponents of Wilkins induction in the Hall of Fame would argue that he was the only option on some sub-par Atlanta Hawk teams and without him, they would have not won any games at all. But winning regular season games and playoff games are two entirely different things. Ask most players or coaches would they prefer a player like Domonique Wilkins who is more likely to have more points in a game than anyone else or a player like Charles Barkley who would give you points,rebounds, assist and the occassional block and steal in a game. Ask those same players and coaches who they thought who they thought would win most of those games played and i’m sure most would say Barkley’s team. This does not mean that Wilkins didn’t rebound, pass the ball or block any shots, but consistancy is always better than occassionally and Wilkins showed the latter in his career much more than Barkley did. Wilkins what a great scorer among many great scorers in his erra. He did not distinuish himself or stand-out amongst his piers during the time he played and in order to be considered great, you would have had to be a STAR among stars in whatever you accomplished in he game. This can be applied to other sports and their Hall of Fame. Barkley was not the kindest and friendliest person in dealing with the public in fact he seemingly spent as much time in a legal COURT as hed did on a basketball COURT. But being a bad guy or having a not so friendly character is not basis to not make the Hall of Fame and i’m glad the Hall voters saw through all of his troubles. At least Wilkins can stake claim to a much better off the court life than Barkley.

Examine Wilkins resume and you can’t make a case, look for the hardware(NBA Championships,MVP’S,ETC) and you certainly can’t make a case other than 2 Slam Dunk Championships which goes back to his individual talents and obviously he has not coached anywhere so their is no record to point their either. I like Dominque, I loved his individual game and offensive arsenal but that should have still left him short of the Hall. Lately, the Hall continues to be not for the elite, but the popular, the player that was an offensive machine or the athlete not the complete player and it will lead to a elite club that is as watered down like the NBA game itself. Let’s get back to the player who helped the team not the teammates that stepped aside for the player and Wilkins is a prime example of that.