Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh headline Basketball Hall of Fame finalists

Paul Pierce made an All-NBA second team, three All-NBA third teams and 10 All-Star teams. He won 2008 NBA Finals MVP in helping the Celtics to a championship. He frequently stepped up in the playoffs throughout his 19-year NBA career.

Pierce should be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Then again, I said the same thing about Chris Bosh, and he wasn’t even a finalist last year. The Basketball Hall of Fame – with its secretive procedures – produces some odd outcomes.

But at least Pierce and Bosh are among this year’s finalists.

The finalists with NBA ties:

PAUL PIERCE [Player] – Pierce is a 10-time NBA All-Star (2002-06, 2008-2012) and 2008 NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics. In 2008, he was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. After 19 seasons in the NBA, Pierce ranks ninth all-time in free throws made and three-point field goals made, as well as 19th all-time in NBA scoring with 26,397 points. Drafted by the Celtics, Pierce was named a member of the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1999. As a Kansas Jayhawk, he was a unanimous First Team All-American in 1998. With Inglewood High, Pierce was named California Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American in 1995. His number 34 is retired by the Boston Celtics and Kansas Jayhawks.

CHRIS BOSH [Player] – Bosh is an 11-time NBA All-Star (2006-2016) and a two-time NBA Champion with the Miami Heat (2012, 2013). In 13 NBA seasons, he averaged 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Drafted by the Toronto Raptors, he was a member of the NBA All-Rookie Team in 2003-2004. As a collegiate athlete at Georgia Tech, Bosh earned ACC Rookie of the Year in 2003. As a high school standout in 2002, Bosh was named Texas Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American, while leading Lincoln High to a state and national championship with a 40-0 record. On the international stage, Bosh won an Olympic gold medal in 2008.

BEN WALLACE [Player] – Wallace is a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006), four-time NBA All-Star (2003-06) and NBA Champion with the Detroit Pistons (2004). He earned NBA All-Defensive Team honors five times (2002-2006) and All-NBA Second Team three times (2003, 2004, 2006), while leading the NBA in rebounds per game (2002, 2003) and blocked shots (2002). As a collegiate athlete at Virginia Union University, Wallace was a CIAA Tournament Champion and Tournament MVP in 1995 and a Division II First Team All-American in 1996.

CHRIS WEBBER [Player] – Webber is a five-time NBA All-Star (1997, 2000-2003) and the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year. He earned All-NBA First Team honors in 2001 and All-NBA Second Team three times (1999, 2002, 2003). He led the NBA in rebounds per game during the 1998-1999 season and averaged more than 20 points per game for nine consecutive seasons (1994-2003). As a member of the “Fab Five,” Webber led University of Michigan to Final Four appearances in 1992 and 1993 and was a Unanimous First Team All-America selection in 1993. As a high school phenom at Detroit Country Day School, he was named the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP, Michigan’s Mr. Basketball, and the Naismith Prep Player of the Year in 1991.

TIM HARDAWAY [Player] – A 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist, Hardaway played 13 NBA seasons scoring a total of 15,373 points while averaging more than 20 points per game for four consecutive seasons. He is the 1990 recipient of the Jack McMahon Award for most inspirational player and a 1997 All-NBA First Team selection. He currently ranks 18th in NBA history with 7,095 career assists. The Chicago native was a member of the men’s basketball team at the University of Texas at El Paso (1985-1989) and is known for making his signature move – the “UTEP Two-step” – famous in 1989, the same year he was named WAC Player of the Year.

MARQUES JOHNSON [Player] – Johnson is a five-time NBA All-Star (1979-81, 1983, 1986) and a member of the 1978 NBA All-Rookie First Team and the 1979 All-NBA First Team. He was also named the NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 1986. In 11 NBA seasons, he averaged 20.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. As a student-athlete at UCLA under the direction of Hall of Famer John Wooden, Johnson was a member of an NCAA national championship team (1975). In 1977, he was named Pac-8 Player of the Year and the consensus National Collegiate Player of the Year. Johnson has been inducted into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (2013).

MICHAEL COOPER [Player] – Cooper is a five-time NBA Champion with the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and is best known for his defensive contributions to an offensively gifted team. He earned NBA All-Defensive First Team honors five times (1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988) and was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1987. In 1986, he collected the J. Walter Kennedy Citizen Award for outstanding service in his community. He played one season for Virtus Roma, where he received the Italian All-Star Game MVP in 1991. As a collegiate athlete at University of New Mexico, Cooper was named a USBWA First Team All-American.

RICK ADELMAN [Coach] – Adelman coached in the NBA for more than three decades, compiling an overall head coaching record of 1042-749 (.582). His teams reached the playoffs in 16 of his 23 seasons at the helm and he led the Portland Trail Blazers to two NBA Finals (1990, 1992). Adelman ranks ninth all-time in NBA career wins, including two 60-win seasons and 11 50-win seasons. He reached 200 wins in just 288 games, a record at the time. Adelman is a three-time NBA All-Star Game head coach (1991, 2001, 2003). He coached several Hall of Fame players including Clyde Drexler, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo, Chris Mullin and Drazen Petrovic.

BILL RUSSELL [Coach] – Following the retirement of legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach in 1966, Bill Russell became the first Black head coach in the NBA. In his second season as player-coach, Russell led the Boston Celtics to the 1968 NBA championship, thus becoming the first Black head coach to win an NBA title. The following season, Russell would again lead Boston to the NBA Finals and championship, his eleventh and final ring. With the Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings, he compiled an NBA coaching record of 341-290 (.540), with a playoff record of 34-27 (.557). As a player-coach, Russell was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1968. Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1975.

Ben Wallace, Chris Webber and Tim Hardaway strike me as borderline Hall of Famers. An amazing defender, Wallace had an underrated peak but relatively short prime. Webber was awesomely talented but had notable deep-playoff issues. Hardaway also produced well in the regular season but lacked significant postseason success. (His case also has a potential complication.)

Marques Johnson can also make a case, but he falls behind those three.

Further behind, Michael Cooper was a good defender and key backup on the Showtime Lakers. But he also wasn’t a finalist until now, which is telling. I see no reason he should suddenly make the Hall of Fame after decades of minimal consideration.

Rick Adelman is another borderline Hall of Famer. He won plenty coaching the Trail Blazers, Kings and Rockets. His offense in Sacramento – led by Chris Webber – was innovative in giving bigs (including Vlade Divac) so much passing responsibility and spacing the floor. Adelman even has a winning career playoff record. But he never won a championship, and his stints with the Warriors and Timberwolves were duds.

Bill Russell was a great player. As a coach… He was a great player. He won two championships as Celtics player-coach. He also had losing records coaching the SuperSonics and Kings. Becoming the NBA’s first Black head coach was a phenomenal achievement. The only question is whether enshrining Russell as a Hall of Fame coach is the right way to recognize it.

The other Hall of Fame finalists:

LAUREN JACKSON [Player] – Jackson is a seven-time WNBA All-Star (2001-2003, 2005-2007, 2009) and three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player (2003, 2007, 2010). She led the Seattle Storm to WNBA Championships in 2004 and 2010, while collecting WNBA Finals MVP honors in 2010. In 2007, Jackson was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, while leading the league in rebounding and points per game. Jackson was named a member of the WNBA’s All-Decade Team in 2006 and the Top 20 Players in the league’s 20-year history in 2016. As a superstar of the WNBL, Jackson is a five-time All-Star (1999-2004), four-time MVP (1999, 2000, 2003, 2004) and four-time Grand Final MVP (2002, 2003, 2006, 2010). With the Australian national team, she is a three-time Olympic silver medalist (2000, 2004, 2008).

YOLANDA GRIFFITH [Player] – Griffith is a seven-time WNBA All-Star (1999-2001, 2003, 2005-2007) and two-time Olympic gold medalist (2000, 2004). She led the Sacramento Monarchs to a WNBA Championship in 2005 while being named to the All-WNBA First Team and WNBA All-Defensive First Team the same year. In 1999, Griffith earned WNBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, while leading the league in field goals, rebounds, offensive rebounds and steals per game. Griffith was named a member of the WNBA’s All-Decade Team in 2006 and the Top 20 Players in the league’s 20-year history in 2016. She began her pro career in the ABL, earning Defensive Player of the Year and All-ABL First Team in 1998. As a student athlete at Florida Atlantic University, Griffith earned WBCA Division II Player of the Year in 1993.

MARIANNE STANLEY [Coach] – Stanley has a women’s basketball coaching career that spans more than 40 years at the collegiate and professional level. In the collegiate ranks for over 20 years, Stanley led Old Dominion to an NCAA national championship in 1985 and compiled an overall collegiate coaching record of 416-222 (.652). She led her teams to three NCAA Final Four appearances (1983, 1985, 1996) and guided Old Dominion to consecutive AIAW national championships (1979,1980) and a WNIT championship (1978). Stanley has been named AIAW National Coach of the Year (1979), Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year (1984, 1985), and Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1993). Since 2000, she has served as an assistant and head coach for several WNBA franchises, earning WNBA Coach of the Year in 2002 at the helm of the Washington Mystics.

JAY WRIGHT [Coach] – Wright is a two-time Naismith National Coach of the Year (2006, 2016), six-time Big East Conference Coach of the Year (2006, 2009, 2014-16, 2019) and the first coach in NCAA history to lead a team to four consecutive 30-win seasons. He led Villanova to two NCAA national championships (2016, 2018) and seven Big East regular season championships (2006, 2014-17, 2019, 2020). In all, Wright has guided Villanova to three Final Fours, four Elite Eights and four Sweet Sixteen appearances. Through the 2019-20 season, he had compiled an overall coaching record of 594-267 (.690). Wright was named the recipient of the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2018.

LETA ANDREWS [Coach] – Andrews has coached high school basketball for over fifty years and is the all-time winningest high school coach, male or female. She has coached five high schools in Texas since 1962 and has led them to sixteen state Final Four appearances, plus a state championship in 1990. Andrews has served as Head coach of the McDonald’s All-America Game West team (2004) and Gatorade All-America Game West team (2009). She was named the NHSCA National High School Coach of the Year (2007) and recipient of the Morgan Wootten Lifetime Achievement Award (2007). She has been inducted into the High School Basketball Hall of Fame (1995) and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2010).