The 2022 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class headlined by San Antonio Spurs legend Manu Ginobili will be inducted this coming weekend at Springfield, Massachusetts.
Ginobili has earned the esteemed distinction of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer after winning four NBA championships with the Spurs, the Olympic Gold Medal in 2004, and a EuroLeague championship in 2001. The Argentinian guard is one of only two players ever to have won all three. He was also named the 2008 NBA Sixth Man of the Year and earned two NBA All-Star game appearances.
Not all Hall of Fame inductees have as straight a path into this lofty club as Ginobili though. Tim Hardaway Sr, the only other person included in this year’s class because of his contributions as an NBA player, has been eligible since 2007 or four full years after his retirement in 2003.
While Hardaway is at last being enshrined this year, there remain a couple of other notable players who have been on the waiting list for years and are still on stand-by for their turn. To further complicate matters for these Hall of Fame snubs, next year’s class is expected to have four first-ballot Hall of Famers in Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, and Pau Gasol.
Among the players currently waiting on the wings, Chauncey Billups, a contemporary of the four aforementioned players and the current head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, has the strongest case to join them next year. Dubbed “Mr. Big Shot” for his clutch shooting, Billups currently has an 84.4% Hall of Fame probability on Basketball Reference which is higher than 2022 member Hardaway’s 79.2%.
Billups was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in 2004 after steering the Detroit Pistons to one of the most unlikely NBA championship runs in recent memory. Ben Wallace, the anchor of their defense during that run, finally made it into the Hall of Fame in 2021 after many years waiting on the wings.
Aside from winning it all in 2004, Billups also made six consecutive Conference Finals appearances–five with the Pistons and one with the Denver Nuggets–and was a five-time NBA All-Star. The third overall pick of the 1997 NBA Draft wound up with career averages of 15.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and one steal by the time he retired.
Though he clearly has the resume for it, Billups’ Hall of Fame call may be getting delayed due to allegations of sexual misconduct dating back to 1997 that recently resurfaced when he was interviewing for the Portland head coach job. However, this does not mean that he is automatically disqualified forever. Hardaway was once vilified for making derogatory comments about gays, but made amends and eventually overcame it to earn his enshrinement.
Another player from this era who has a considerable resume that is worthy for inclusion is Shawn Marion. The 16-year NBA veteran may be overlooked because of his unglamorous role as a defensive specialist, yet the way that he impacted games with his versatility should merit further deliberation.
The 6’7 forward was a key enabler of the revolutionary “Seven Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns teams of the mid-2000s that made several deep playoff runs and was the main perimeter defender on the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. He provided the template for what a small ball power forward should be while on the Suns and displayed an ability to guard literally every position when he was at his peak.
Marion was named to four NBA All-Star teams and averaged 15.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game with the five different franchises that he suited up for.
Beyond Billups and Marion, a couple of other players listed below deserve realistic consideration for the Hall of Fame as well.
Overall Statistics: Larry Foust, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Kemp
Career Peak: Penny Hardaway, Gene Shue, Kevin Johnson
Championships Won: Robert Horry, Bill Laimbeer, Horace Grant