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Basketball Hall of Fame announces 2019 finalists

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The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has announced the finalists for the Class of 2019.

The list – numbering 13 in all – includes four first-time finalists in Marques Johnson, Jack Sikma, Ben Wallace and Paul Westphal. The holdovers are led by Chris Webber; the list also includes Leta Andrews, Hugh Evans, Bill Fitch, Bobby Jones, Sidney Moncrief, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Teresa Weatherspoon.

The official class of inductees – everyone from this list who meets or surpasses the 75 percent voting threshold via the 24-person honors committee – will be announced during the NCAA Final Four.

It’s not quite as top-heavy a list as last year, which saw two of the NBA’s greatest point guards ever in Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. Still, it’s a quality collection of talent.

Chief among the first-timers is Ben Wallace. He spent 15 years in the league as one of the most feared defensive presences in NBA history. He was named to six All-Defensive Teams (first team five times, second team once) and was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times. He made the All-NBA second team three times and the third team twice. He led the league in rebounding twice and blocks once. Despite a career scoring average of less than six points per game – Wallace NEVER averaged double-digits in scoring for a season – he warrants serious consideration for this honor. Few players in NBA history have so influenced the game without scoring.

The other first-time finalists are impressive in their own right.

Marques Johnson was an elite player coming out of UCLA – he was the National Player of the Year in 1977 – and went on to excel in the NBA for a decade. His line of 20.1 points, seven boards and 3.6 assists per game is outstanding, though his career came to a premature end following a neck injury. Still, he managed to make five All-Star teams and three All-NBA teams (one first, two second).

Jack Sikma was one of the NBA’s most durable players during his career, playing in over 1,100 games in his 14-year run. He was a big man praised for his gritty play, but he was more than a banger, slashing 15.6/9.8/3.2 for his career. He was also named to seven All-Star teams.

Paul Westphal’s body of work is wide-ranging. As a player, he averaged 15.6 points, two rebounds and 4.4 assists over the course of a dozen years. For a five-year stretch in the late 1970s, he was one of the NBA’s most feared scorers. He made five All-Star teams and four All-NBA squads. As a coach, he won over 300 games in stints with Phoenix, Seattle and Sacramento, with a winning percentage of .533.

As for the holdovers? You have to start with C-Webb.

Chris Webber was an exceptionally skilled player – an evolutionary leap at the power forward position – but for whatever reason, it was never enough for people. He averaged over 20 points per game for his career – 20.7 to be exact – but his scoring acumen was questioned. He pulled down 9.8 boards per game over his career and averaged double digits in six seasons, including five straight. He was a great passing big man, with 4.2 assists per game, and had the same career per-game average in both blocks and steals (1.4 each). However, his last great season was at 32 and he was done by 34.

Bobby Jones is another notable returnee. His 12.1/6.1/2.7 line might not leap out at you, but here’s a number that will – 10. That’s how many years in a row Jones was named to the All-Defensive first team, a streak that was broken … when he was named to the second team in 1985. Yes, the first two years were in the ABA, but still – that’s a renowned defender.

Sidney Moncrief was no defensive slouch either – he won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and was named to the All-Defensive team five straight years in the early 1980s (four first, one second). He was also All-NBA for those years (one first, four second). His offensive output – 15.6/4.7/3.6 – was awfully impressive as well.

As for the rest? Some pretty killer bona fides. Leta Andrews is the all-time winningest high school basketball coach in U.S. history. At the college level, Barbara Stevens was a five-time Division II National Coach of the Year. On the men’s side, Eddie Sutton was a four-time National Coach of the Year winner and the first coach to take four different schools to the NCAA tournament. Bill Fitch was twice named NBA Coach of the Year, while Hugh Evans was an NBA referee for nearly three decades. And finally, Teresa Weatherspoon was a five-time WNBA All-Star, was twice named WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and is second all-time in assists.

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