Friday, September 5, 2008


When sports fans hear the words “Hall of Fame”, immediate reactions are to talk about baseball and football. Though every sport has its hallowed halls and record books, there is such public and media gravitas involved with Major League Baseball and the National Football League that you’d almost forget than any other sport or league has a Hall associated to their craft.

Baseball’s history and its controversies throughout the years – eventual integration, gambling, performance-enhancing use, the good-ol’-boys network enshrining not-so-great talents – keep Cooperstown in the conscious of nearly every fan. While football shares some similar issues, its position as America’s passion and its impact on television have given Canton, Ohio a national

Well, what about Springfield, Massachusetts?

Friday brought us the induction of some of the best and brightest to ever be involved in the game of basketball as its Hall of Fame welcomes seven new members. While there’s nothing ‘sexy’ about this group, it’s an impressive roll call of names: Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Pat Riley, Adrian Dantley, Dick Vitale, Cathy Rush (pioneer women's basketball head coach) and William Davidson (Detroit Pistons owner). Why this group does not inspire more than basketball-media chatter is still somewhat astounding.

What separates the Basketball Hall of Fame from Pro Football or Baseball (and Hockey, for those who wonder) is that it honors excellence at all levels of play. Whether it’s college, the NBA or international pro leagues, Springfield prefers to tell the stories of the game under one house, even as individual states and franchises choose to honor their own greats separately. The voters are relatively unknown and the process is not up for as much public discourse as in the other Halls.

For the apparent lack of exclusivity, the Basketball Hall does not lend itself to the rampant promotion, major cable network coverage – ESPN Classic doesn’t have near the reach of siblings ESPN or ABC – and debate within the fan base. The NFL is the undisputed king of American sports and save the Pro Bowl and the Quarterback Challenge, there isn’t an NFL property that does not whip the media into frenzy. Baseball is a sport that is buoyed by major markets, deep pockets and over a century of records to compare. The NBA, as the banner brand of basketball, finds itself continually crafting its image after any media or public slight.

So for the sports nation, it might be more fun to break down the credentials of Todd Helton or Fred Taylor than Chris Webber. This may just be an inconvenient truth for basketball as a whole, but it could be a great opportunity to ask what can the trustees of the sport do to raise the Hall’s profile?

Is a change in order for the selection process, or at least the voters themselves?

Does the Hall move the induction ceremony into or closer to the season instead of the current early September date?

Or do they take the league’s approach of the last decade: wait for Michael Jordan to save us all?

The eligibility of His Airness begins in 2009.

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