On Friday in Houston, the Basketball Hall of Fame announced the finalists who will vie to enter its hallowed halls when the official entrants are announced in April at the Final Four. Among the notable names in the finalists include Sonics point guard Gary Payton, New York Knicks legend Bernard King, former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino and legendary UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. The other two wings of the Warriors' Run TMC crew, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway, are also among the finalists.
This is an incredibly accomplished group and there will be some debate for some of them. But all the finalists are incredibly skilled players and are worthy of at least the discussion of entrance into the Hall in Springfield.
Here are the finalists and a brief description and highlights of a selection of the finalists:
Gary Payton: Payton was one of the best point guards of the 1990s, earning the nickname "The Glove" for his ability to hold and prevent opposing point guards from scoring or initiating their offense. He was a nine-time All Star and the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year. Payton was a constant presence on All-Defensive and All-NBA teams throughout his career, mostly with the Sonics. He averaged 16.3 points and 6.7 assists per game, scoring 21,813 points in his 17-year career.
Tim Hardaway: Hardaway made the crossover cool. He was breaking ankles and using speed at the point guard position to score in ways that had rarely been done before. Even though his Warriors never did win much, the crew of Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin — Run TMC — revolutionized fast break basketball and became an instant hit with fans across the league. He was a five-time NBA All Star and was an All-NBA First Team player with the Heat in 1997. He averaged 17.7 points per game and 8.2 assists per game.
Bernard King: King is one of the legends of NBA scorers. The guy did one thing and did it well. King's performances with the Knicks, Nets and Bullets were legendary. He averaged 22.5 points per game during his career including a league-best 32.5 points per game in 1985. He was a four-time All Star as injuries kept him from realizing his full potential.
Mitch Richmond: Richmond was a great all-around player and scorer who filled the final third of the Warriors' famous Run TMC. He averaged 21.0 points per game in his long career with the Warriors, Kings and Wizards. He scored better than 20 points per game in each of his first 10 seasons, a stretch that included six All Star appearances including the 1995 All-Star Game MVP in Phoenix. The big knock on him was the unfortunate circumstance that he did not play for many good teams. He made the Playoffs just four times in his career, playing in 23 Playoff games. This makes him one of the forgotten stars of the 1990s.
Maurice Cheeks: Cheeks was often overshadowed by his teammates like Julius Erving and Moses Malone, however Cheeks was a great player in his own right however. He went to four All-Star Games including three straight from 1986-1988. He was a four-time First Team All-Defensive player and helped Philadelphia win the 1983 title on the "Fo' Fo' Fo'" team. Cheeks was always a consistent player, although never a star in his own right.
Spencer Haywood: Haywood hit the scene in the ABA, leading the high-scoring league with 30.0 points per game in his rookie season in 1970. He went on to average at least 20.0 points per game in his first six seasons. He averaged 20.3 points per game across his ABA and NBA career. He played for the Sonics and Knicks in his career. He was a four-time All Star and the ABA MVP in 1970.
Dawn Staley (Women's Basketball): Staley was one of the founding stars of the WNBA, joining the league in 1999 (two years after it started). She scored 2,226 points in nine seasons, averaging 8.5 points per game and 5.1 assists per game. She was a member of the WNBA's All-Decade Team for the first 10 years of the league. Staley was a three-time gold medalist for the U.S. Olympic team. She never won a WNBA title and her stats were never overly impressive. But her leadership and her play were key in helping grow the infant league.