by user Iancass

Today is affirmation day for Detroit Pistons fans. If I'm looking at this through Detroit-colored glasses and not seeing the larger picture, please let me know, but I'm not sure there's been a more underrated great player in NBA history than Joe Dumars.

While flashier guys like Reggie Miller seized the spotlight, Dumars had the more complete game, excelling on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court. If the Pistons needed him to score 30 points, he could do that. Play tough defense on the other team's top scorer? Okay. Take the ball to the basket? Yep. Knock down three-pointers? You got it. Hit all of his free throws? Absolutely.

He won two championships in his prime - earning the MVP award of the 1989 NBA Finals - and later in his career, showed his leadership qualities by willingly taking on the role of mentor, showing a younger team how to win as the torch was passed to Allan Houston and Grant Hill.

Dumars has only added to his considerable legacy by taking that winning touch to the front office, and becoming one of the NBA's top general managers (which could warrant its own Hall of Fame status). And if there any questions about the man's character, the league citizenship and sportsmanship awards he was given should answer them. He absolutely belongs in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and it's great to see him inducted.

But Dominique Wilkins? A Hall of Famer? Really?

Help me out with this. Okay, he's the NBA's ninth all-time leading scorer, which obviously deserves recognition. Maybe this is harsh, but to me, 'Nique was largely a ball-hogging showboat who seemed to care more about making highlight clips and racking up points than winning games. If I recall correctly, he refused a move from small forward to shooting guard because he felt it'd cost him a spot on the All-Star team. To me, Wilkins' career is summed up by his Game 7 shootout with Larry Bird in the 1988 playoffs. 'Nique scored 48 points to Bird's 37, but the Celtics won the game.

Of course, it's not the NBA Hall of Fame, so Wilkins' college career at Georgia - where he's the fourth-leading scorer in school history, and holds the single-season record for points scored - also factored heavily into his induction.

Charles Barkley didn't win any championships either, but he got his team to the NBA Finals, dominated at a position for which he was undersized, and was highly regarded enough to be named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

I'd expect plenty of people to disagree with my questions about Wilkins, and maybe he just had the misfortune of playing in the same era as the great Celtics, Pistons, and Bulls teams of the late 80s/early 90s. But I guess I'm wondering what the standard for a Hall of Famer is.

Perhaps I'm influenced too much by baseball's more rigid criteria, which might be too strict. Yet it seems like basketball and football allow most everyone in. Having a good career seems enough in those sports. And maybe that's the way it should be. But to me, it seems like the Hall of Fame should represent the top level of excellence in a sport. Is that what we're really seeing here?


Mon 04/03/06, 10:28 am EST

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