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Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announces 2021 class

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The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has announced its 2021 class of inductees.

Just one day after the delayed induction of the 2020 class finally took place – an historic group of entrants including Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant – the Hall put forward its 2021 group, set to be enshrined on Sept. 11 of this year.

A quartet of big names head up the list. Paul Pierce is probably the biggest star of the bunch, though Chris Bosh, Chris Webber and Ben Wallace are no slouches. There are also a trio of coaches – Rick Adelman, Jay Wright and Bill Russell (who is already in the Hall for his play, but is now a dual inductee) – and a pair of WNBA stars in Yolanda Griffith and Lauren Jackson, as well as a number of other committee and contributor selections.

But it is the four at the top that will be of interest to most.

We’ll start with Paul Pierce, who makes it into the Hall in his first year of eligibility and deservedly so. His name appears all over the NBA’s all-time leaderboards. His 26,937 points place him 16th all-time in scoring. His 1,752 steals place him in the top 20 as well. Plus, he pulled down over 7,500 boards and dished over 4,700 assists along the way. He’s in the top 20 in games played and the top 10 in free throws made. Pierce was named an All-Star 10 times and made his way onto the All-NBA team four times (three third teams and one second). He also helped lead the Celtics to the 2008 title, winning Finals MVP along the way. Pierce played just over 1,100 of his 1,343 NBA games in Celtics green and is one of the franchise’s most iconic figures of the 21st century. Over the course of nearly two decades, many NBA teams learned that they couldn’t handle The Truth.

Next, we’ll look at Pierce’s fellow first-time eligible Chris Bosh. Bosh’s career was cut abruptly short by medical issues that led to his final season happening when he was just 31. Still, he packed a lot of production into his 13 seasons (seven with the Toronto Raptors, six with the Miami Heat). His rate stats are outstanding – 19.2 points per game, 8.5 rebounds and two assists – though the brevity of his career means that his raw totals don’t evoke the same kind of awe as other players. Bosh was a key part of Miami’s two titles, serving as the third man in the Heat’s Big Three alongside LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. He made 11 All-Star teams … in a row. From the 2005-06 season until his too-soon retirement in 2015-16, he was named an All-Star every year. He only made one All-NBA squad, but he was regarded as an ideal teammate.

It took five tries, but Chris Webber has finally landed his spot in Springfield. It makes sense, in a way – Webber could never live up to the outsized expectations that people had for him, so of course he’d be underappreciated here. He 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). He made five All-NBA squads and had five top-10 MVP finishes. However, his last great season was at 32 and he was done by 34.

Bringing up the rear in this lead foursome is defensive stalwart Ben Wallace. Wallace came into the league undrafted and, despite never averaging more than 9.7 points per game in a season, became one of the most valuable figures in the NBA. That’s because of his tenacious rebounding (he led the league twice and pulled down over 10,000 over the course of his career) and defensive excellence – he was named to the league’s All-Defensive team six times, five times to the first team, and was named Defensive Player of the Year four times. In addition, he was selected to the All-NBA squad five times. All this, again, despite never once averaging double-digits in points per game. An iconic representation of how one can dominate a basketball game without huge scoring numbers.

As for the rest?

Rick Adelman led teams to two NBA Finals and won over a thousand games as a coach with the Trail Blazers, Rockets, Kings and Timberwolves. Jay Wright made three Final Fours and won NCAA titles in 2016 and 2018 in his tenure at Villanova. And Bill Russell, well … you’ve probably heard of him. But he’s an iconic coaching figure too, winning a pair of titles in the late ‘60s as the NBA’s first black head coach. On the WNBA tip, Lauren Jackson won three MVPs and two championships during her time in the league, while Yolanda Griffith won one of each.

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 May 2021 07:00

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