- Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
- Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
- Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE system
Where does the star-studded 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class rank?
Since Tim Duncan announced his retirement in the summer of 2016, joining Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett in concluding their careers after the 2015-16 season, NBA fans have been anticipating the prospect of celebrating three league MVPs being inducted together into the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
That possibility became reality with Saturday’s announcement of the 2020 class, though it took on a somber note as it came just months after Bryant’s death. Still, the 2020 Hall of Fame ceremony will be a celebration of Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January, and what he, Duncan and Garnett accomplished as NBA contemporaries.
So, how does the class of Bryant, Duncan and Garnett stack up compared to other Hall classes? Let’s take a look using my championships added career metric.
First, a note on methodology. My class rankings focus strictly on NBA players because of the difficulty of putting other inductees on the same scale. Additionally, even though the Naismith Hall of Fame factors in the entirety of a player’s career, we’re solely considering NBA (and ABA) contributions here.
With that noted, let’s start with the GOAT Hall of Fame class — featuring perhaps the greatest player in league history.
MORE: Watch classic ESPN games featuring KG, Kobe and Duncan
1. 2009 (7.3 championships added)
Michael Jordan (4.2), David Robinson (1.7), John Stockton (1.4)
Jordan’s famous speech at his Hall induction — yes, the one that gave us the “Crying Jordan” meme — cast such a long shadow, it’s easy to forget that two other members of the 1992 USA Olympic “Dream Team” went into the Hall of Fame with him. Add Robinson’s two championships and one MVP to Jordan’s six and five, respectively, and it’s easy to see why this Hall class leads the rankings.
Although he didn’t reach the same personal or team heights as Jordan and Robinson, Stockton — the league’s career leader in both assists and steals — was an outstanding player.
In comparison to 2020, however, it’s Jordan who pushes the 2009 class over the top. His 4.2 championships added, most in league history at the time, are 1.5 more than those recorded by any of this year’s Hall of Famers.
2. 2020 (6.6 championships added)
Tim Duncan (2.7), Kobe Bryant (2.2), Kevin Garnett (1.7)
There’s little question that this year’s class is as deep in superstars as any on record. It is just the fifth time that multiple MVPs have gone into the Hall together. This will be the first class with three, including two of the top 10 players in NBA history by championships added in Duncan and Bryant, and a third top-20 player, Garnett. Only twice before have even a pair of top-20 players been part of the same class. It’s unlikely we’ll see a Hall of Fame induction as uniformly strong as this year’s again anytime soon.
3. 1980 (4.5 championships added)
Jerry West (2.2), Oscar Robertson (1.8), Jerry Lucas (0.5)
Few players have been as inseparable as Robertson and West, who entered the NBA as the No. 1 and No. 2 picks of the 1960 draft, respectively, and retired together after the 1973-74 season as second and third in career scoring at the time. (West’s last game came against Robertson’s Milwaukee Bucks, who ultimately lost in the Finals.) In between, they were together on the All-NBA first team at guard every season from 1961-62 through 1966-67. West and Robertson are top-20 players by championships added, and they get a slight boost from Lucas, a seven-time All-Star and member of the New York Knicks’ 1973 title team.
4. 2016 (4.4 championships added)
Shaquille O’Neal (2.6), Allen Iverson (0.9), Zelmo Beaty (0.6), Yao Ming (0.4)
Some 15 years after they battled in the 2001 NBA Finals, O’Neal and Iverson went into the Hall of Fame together. They won back-to-back MVPs, though O’Neal’s career rates far better by championships added because of his longevity (he entered the league four years before Iverson) and superior win share totals in his prime. The 2016 class also featured Beaty, a two-time NBA All-Star who made three more All-Star appearances and won a championship after jumping to the ABA’s Utah Stars; Yao, whose groundbreaking career was cut short by injury; and three-time WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes.
5. 1995 (4.3 championships added)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (3.7), Vern Mikkelsen (0.5)
Abdul-Jabbar, who ranked second in championships added at the time of his induction. headlined this class, along with pre-WNBA stars Cheryl Miller (still considered perhaps the greatest women’s player ever) and Anne Donovan. Mikkelsen was a supporting player alongside George Mikan on the Minneapolis Lakers’ four championship teams from Mikkelsen’s arrival in 1949-50 through 1953-54, making six All-Star teams.
6. 1979 (4.0 championships added)
Wilt Chamberlain (4.0)
If the 1995 class was mostly about Kareem, the 1979 class was exclusively about the Big Dipper, the only NBA player inducted that year. (He was joined by four coaches, including Ray Meyer, Pete Newell and pioneering John McLendon, as well as referee James Enright.) Until Jordan passed him in the 1990s, Chamberlain led all players in championships added, and his total alone made 1979 a top-10 class.
7. 2010 (3.9 championships added)
Karl Malone (2.3), Scottie Pippen (1.1), Dennis Johnson (0.4), Gus Johnson (0.2)
The year after their respective teammates Jordan and Stockton went into the Hall, Pippen and Malone were inducted in 2010 as a pair of top-35 players by championships added. The 2010 class also featured the posthumous induction of both Johnsons, an unrelated pair of champions (Gus in the ABA, Dennis with the NBA’s Sonics and Celtics) known primarily for defense. They were joined by two-time WNBA MVP Cynthia Cooper, the first player inducted primarily on the strength of her WNBA career.
8. 2018 (3.8 championships added)
Jason Kidd (1.0), Steve Nash (1.0), Ray Allen (0.8), Grant Hill (0.5), Maurice Cheeks (0.5), Charlie Scott (0.1), Dino Radja (0.0)
The 2018 Hall class was artificially strong because of a rule change that reduced the waiting period after retirement from five seasons to four, putting Nash and Allen (who retired after the 2013-14 season) in the same class with Hill and Kidd (who retired after 2012-13). The result was an atypically deep group that featured three players in the top 60 by championships added, the second (Kidd) and third (Nash) players in career assists and the all-time leader in 3-pointers (Allen). The class also featured two of the top scorers in women’s professional basketball, Katie Smith (the combined ABL and WNBA leader) and Tina Thompson (who retired as the WNBA’s scoring leader before being passed by Diana Taurasi).
9. 1993 (3.8 championships added)
Julius Erving (2.0), Dan Issel (0.7), Walt Bellamy (0.5), Dick McGuire (0.2), Bill Walton (0.2), Calvin Murphy (0.2)
Still as large as any class of players inducted based primarily on NBA (and ABA) production, this group is probably underrated by championships added. Walton, in particular, suffers with this method, which doesn’t give him sufficient credit for his dominant play in the first 58 games of his injury-shortened MVP campaign. Add in Erving’s NBA MVP (plus three more in the ABA) and this was one of the most decorated classes ever.
10. 2008 (3.1 championships added)
Hakeem Olajuwon (1.6), Patrick Ewing (0.8), Adrian Dantley (0.6)
Olajuwon and Ewing, who famously squared off in a seven-game NBA Finals in 1994, went in together. They were accompanied by Dantley, giving this class three of the top 70 players by championships added — a claim just two others could make before this one. The 2008 class also featured legendary coach Pat Riley.
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