The NBA needs to create its own Hall of Fame. This annual headspin of who gets into the Basketball Hall of Fame is way past old.
This year's crop of snubs underscores the discombobulated nature of how hoop legends are immortalized. Mitch Richmond gets in. Kevin Johnson and Tim Hardaway don't. The worst part: We have no idea why.
There is no semblance of universal standards. For some voters, it's being elite at their position. For others, its crazy productivity. For others, it's how much they have won. For others, it's impact on the game.
And it's not just about what they do in the pro ranks, because high school and collegiate performance is also included. A really good NBA career is bolstered by a stellar college career or by winning gold medals in the Olympics.
It's not that those are unworthy barometers, but it makes it nearly impossible to decipher the election criteria outside of the no-brainers. And the capper: The whole thing is shrouded in secrecy because voters are anonymous. So no explanation ever is given, no credible opinion to which basketball heads can defer.
This is not to say Mitch Richmond doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. He's a great ambassador for the game. His résumé is certainly worthy: six-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, Olympic gold medalist, 20,000 points. And he did it all in the golden age of NBA shooting guards.
"If you think about the great 'two' guards of that era," Chris Mullin told the popular Sacramento Kings blog Cowbell Kingdom, "Clyde Drexler, Joe Dumars, Reggie Miller, and obviously the best player of all time, Michael Jordan -- you always mentioned Mitch as the toughest competitor, toughest guy to play against."
Plus, Richmond was a class guy.
With that said, Hardaway's peak was greater than Richmond's. His first eight NBA seasons not only were highly productive individually but also included more winning teams than did Richmond's.
Hardaway averaged 19.6 points and 9.1 assists combined in five-plus seasons with the Warriors and his first two-plus with Miami. During that stretch, he was selected to five All-Star games (giving up one of those starting nods to Magic Johnson) and four All-NBA teams. Perhaps most important, he led his teams to five playoff berths.
In the playoffs, he was even more dominant. In those five postseasons, Hardaway averaged 21.7 points and 7.9 assists. It took Jordan and the Chicago Bulls to stop the Heat in the 1996-97 playoffs.
In 56 career playoff games, Hardaway averaged 16.8 points and 6.8 assists -- including the latter years when his knees had gotten the best of him.
Plus, Hardaway has a bonus element: He was a basketball pioneer. His "killer crossover" set the stage for the likes of Allen Iverson, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving. Hardaway wasn't the first point guard with flashy handles, but he is the genesis of the crossover becoming as much a part of basketball vernacular as "dunk."
Johnson, the Sacramento native and Cal product, is among the most underrated point guards ever. The Hall of Fame panelists, you would expect, would be best at noticing just how good of a career Johnson had.
KJ, who like Hardaway dominated as the little man on the court, averaged 17.9 points and 9.1 assists over 13 seasons. He's 18th on the career assists list.
Get this: Johnson played in 105 career playoff games, starting 93. He was a John Paxson 3-pointer from taking Jordan and the Bulls to Game 7 of the 1993 Finals. He's one of 15 players to total at least 2,000 points and 900 assists in the playoffs.
The only players from that elite group not in the Hall of Fame: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Tony Parker and Steve Nash.
On top of that, Johnson the politician has been nearly as vital to the NBA as he was as an unguardable point guard. Certainly to Sacramento.
But this is less about Hardaway and Johnson not getting in than it is about not knowing the why or how. They are just the latest of a few head-scratching choices by this secret society.
No doubt, snubs and debate are a healthy part of the Hall of Fame process. That's true in all sports. But the Basketball Hall of Fame all but silences legitimate discussion because of its process.
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver -- instead of lobbying for upping the age limit and preventing grown men from earning the living of their choice -- should fix this problem. Break away from the most confusing Hall of Fame in professional sports.
The legends of the NBA deserve it.
Mitch Richmond voted into Hall of Fame. PAGE 3