The Naismith Memorial Basketball Class of 2024 won’t be as star-studded as it has been in recent years, but it will still feature some deserving names who will have the Orange Jackets and Gold Ring added to their list of accomplishments after their career.
In recent years, players like Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber have been allowed in after long waiting times and doubts about whether they will be honored. They were superstars who had a profound impact on the game. Next year, can some game-changing specialists make the cut?
Carter is easily the biggest name on the list, the player who went from supernova to pricey vet during his 22-year NBA career. It’s easy to forget how valid the Jordan Next comparisons seemed to be for a while when he hit the scene in Toronto after the 1998 lockout.
In 2001, he finished just outside the top 10 in MVP voting, averaging 27.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in taking the Raptors to within a game of the East Finals. Many will remember that he traveled to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for his college graduation on the morning of Game 7 of the Conference Semifinals against Allen Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers, drawing much criticism.
Later, the potential winner of the game bounced off the edge at the buzzer and was guessed a second time for years afterwards. He seemed to follow him, coloring the media’s view of him as a superstar, especially since he has struggled with injuries the past two years in Toronto.
Even his first few years after a turbulent trade led to some stellar seasons with the then New Jersey Nets along with Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, the last of his eight consecutive All-Star seasons occurring in the 2006-07 season.
From there, he was well-traveled yet efficient in ways other players in his stature wouldn’t allow themselves, going to Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento (remember that?) and Atlanta.
He just passed the 25,000-point mark, which is good for 20 all-time. The 19 ahead of him are all either Hall of Famers or locks to get there because they’re still playing (or Carmelo Anthony just retired). He’s never made it to the NBA Finals, but there’s not even a question if he’ll ever make it.
Billups was Finals MVP in 2004 for the Detroit Pistons, but he deserves much more than that, even though he was a bum early and late in his career. He has been in his candidacy for much longer than most, as he retired after the 2013-14 season. But his biography gives more credibility than many people think at first glance. Basketball-Reference.com lists his Hall probability at 84.4%, not far behind Carter’s.
A championship, another Finals appearance in 2005 and six consecutive Conference Finals in Detroit (every season he’s been there) all play a big part in why he deserves it. He helped lead the Denver Nuggets to a Conference Finals appearance after he was traded from Detroit for Iverson, making it seven in a row. Billups surpassed 15,000 points and 5,000 assists despite his innings and battles with injuries at the beginning and end of his career.
Apparently, it’s only a matter of time before Pelops gets in on it. And that may be the case now.
Sneakily, Marion has a solid alibi. Steve Nash gets a lot of the credit for the seven-and-under Phoenix Suns that have terrorized the league for more than a few years, along with Amar’e Stoudemire. Marion was the first in the stock wins per 48 minutes behind Nash in 2005-06, the year Stoudemire missed due to knee surgery. Marion was the two-way glue for the Suns teams, being a great little ball while also being a skilled 3-point shooter. He averaged 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in his first nine seasons with Phoenix, then transitioned into a valuable gear at stops in Dallas, Toronto and Miami.
In Dallas, he was the Mavericks’ key sixth man as they caught fire in the 2011 playoffs, culminating in an upset championship win over the favored Miami Heat. Marion totaled over 17,000 points and 10,000 rebounds, averaging just under 16 points and over nine rebounds. His defensive versatility will help him lead the league in steals twice, and the advanced stats love him. His Hall probability is 75.6%.
Stoudemire was culpable when associated with Marion and Nash, particularly the latter during Nash’s MVP run in 2005. Before his knee surgery—which many thought was a career killer before he came back and developed as a killer pick-and-pop player—he was the most explosive around-the-edge in the league. He was unstoppable in the Conference Finals in 2005, averaging 37 points and 10 rebounds against eventual Finals Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs, including a save block on Duncan in the Suns’ only win.
He almost forgot he had knee surgery that cost his career, but he developed his technique and became effective for years afterward. He led the Suns in stock wins per 48 minutes in 2008 and 2010 when he returned to full health. He made five All-NBA Teams, including the 2010-11 New York after signing as an unrestricted free agent, along with making six All-Star Games. His knees were bound to give him up, as injuries plagued him shortly after the arrival of Carmelo Anthony in 2011. But from 2004-11, he was undeniable, averaging 23.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks playing various roles for the two franchises.
He was in place until 2014-15 with Dallas after he was waived by the Knicks, and he retired shortly after the 2015-16 season. He’s one of those players who if he played today he’d be even more valuable as a final and mid-range leader than he was in his prime. Basketball Reference lists him as having a Hall Probability of 72.9%.
Noah was the face of the struggling Chicago Bulls in the first decade, and a thorn in the side of the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. When healthy, Noah was a passionate and versatile defender who could put in better performances than most players in his position. Noah was a two-time University of Florida champion and a two-time All-Star with the Bulls, making the first team in 2013-14 and also winning Defensive Player of the Year that season, helping to keep the Bulls afloat in the absence of superstar Derrick Rose. He was the set piece in Tom Thibodeau’s aggressive defensive strategy that many other teams copied, but other teams didn’t have Joakim Noah. His stats per game don’t jump off the page because he wasn’t a great scorer, but given his college resume and overall impact on the game, he has stronger status than many realize (8.8 points, 9.0 rebounds in his career).
If the hall allows the professionals, Crawford’s entry will be easy, but it will set a precedent of sorts. Following the example of Ricky Pierce and Vinnie Johnson, Crawford was a scoring machine wherever he went, and more than that, a threat to embarrass even the best defenders every night. He and Lou Williams are tied for Sixth Man of the Year awards with three, and Crawford embodied what the award is all about.
He was just short of the hallowed 20,000-point mark, but he averaged nearly 15 games in his career, playing for nine teams — and scoring 50 in a game for four different teams, which is an NBA record. He wasn’t seeded in one position or another, but he managed to be valuable in all of his shortstops, scoring nearly 21 in 2007-08 with the Knicks, and 18.6 in 2013-14 with the Clippers in Doc Rivers’ first season as coach. If there is a basketball heaven for unabashed linebackers as there is for defensive specialists, the floodgates may finally open for Crawford.