Basketball Hall of Fame Standards
Looking for voting tendencies in past Hall of Fame results.
In his excellent book The Politics of Glory (later republished as Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?), Bill James outlined what he called the Baseball Hall of Fame Standards Test. In a nutshell, the system awards points to players for various statistical accomplishments: hitting .300, winning 300 games, etc. James designed the system such that the typical Hall of Famer had a score of 50. It’s important to note up front that James’ goal was not to identify players who should be elected to the Hall of Fame, but rather players who would be elected.
I wanted to develop a similar system for basketball, but immediately ran into a problem: The election process for the Baseball Hall of Fame is very different from that of the Basketball Hall of Fame, the biggest difference being that the Basketball Hall of Fame honors players based on their college, international, and/or professional accomplishments, while the Baseball Hall of Fame honors players based solely on their professional careers.
Because I wanted to evaluate a player based solely on his NBA career, I developed my system using players who:
were elected to the Hall of Fame,
were elected under the category of “Player,”
played their entire career in the shot-clock era (1954–55 to present), and
had a minimum of 400 games played in the NBA.
That gave me 116 Hall of Famers. My feeling was that players who met the criteria above were players who were elected primarily for their NBA accomplishments, although there are some obvious exceptions (e.g., Arvydas Sabonis).
The Hall of Famers were awarded points in eight different categories:
Games Played: Award the player one point for every 40 games played above 400, with a limit of 15 points.
Points Per Game: Award the player one point for every 0.5 point per game above 10.0, with a limit of 20 points.
Rebounds Per Game: Award the player one point for every 0.5 rebound per game above 5.0, with a limit of 10 points.
Assists Per Game: Award the player one point for every 0.5 assist per game above 5.0, with a limit of five points.
All-Star Selections: Award the player one point for each All-Star selection, with a limit of 10 points.
All-NBA Selections: Award the player two points for each All-NBA selection (any team), with a limit of 10 points.
Championships: Award the player three points for every championship team he played on, with a limit of 15 points.
MVP Awards: Award the player five points for every MVP Award he won, with a limit of 15 points.
The maximum possible score is 100. The median Hall of Famer has a score of 50 (Alex English, Spencer Haywood, Jason Kidd, and Tracy McGrady), the maximum score was 95 (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and the minimum score was nine (Sabonis).
I don’t necessarily agree with all of the weights or categories, but based on past election results those seem to be the things that the voters have deemed most important.
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