Ranking the best hoops classes ever

By Jeff Linville - jlinville@mtairynews.com

Jeff Linville News Editor

In last week’s column I wrote that this year’s potential basketball Hall of Fame class could be heavy on star power.

So how does it stack up to some of the best in history? Pretty well.

Some years the pickings are slim, and other times are crammed with goodness. Here are a couple of examples before I get to my top three classes.


Rick Barry, Walt Frazier and Pete Maravich

Barry was a 12-time all-star who averaged a league-high 35.6 points per game before defecting to the ABA for the start of the 1968 season. He averaged 25 points a game and led his respective league in foul shooting seven times.

As a freshman in college, Pistol Pete averaged 43.6 points and 10.4 rebounds as a guard. He still holds the NCAA record with a career 44.2 points per game. He made five NBA all-star teams and was snubbed a couple of other times. And the shooter did all this without the help of a three-point line.

Frazier was a seven-time all-star as a point guard for the Knicks.


Magic Johnson, coaches Larry Brown, Lute Olson and Kay Yow, the late Drazen Petrovic, the Harlem Globetrotters

Okay, Magic is the only true star, but when you are talking about one of the greatest ever, that has an impact.

Petrovic posted back-to-back 20-point seasons and exceptional range before his untimely death.

The coaching trio is very impressive, and the Globetrotters should have been in long before 2002.


Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, Joe Dumars

This trio accounts for 26 all-star appearances — 11 for Sir Charles, nine for the Human Highlight Reel, and six for one of the Bad Boys. Barkley had the 1993 MVP award, Dumars the 1989 Finals MVP and Wilkins was a close second to Larry Bird in the 1986 MVP race. Dumars was on the all-defensive team five times.

They combine for 66,826 points, 21,918 rebounds, 11,504 assists and 3,928 steals.


Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Adrian Dantley, Pat Riley and Dick Vitale

That group is good for 29 all-star appearances and three championships as players. Throw in seven championships with Pat Riley as a coach and/or executive, to go with 1,151 career regular season wins.

Olajuwon was a 12-time all-star, two-time Finals MVP, two-time defensive player of the year and 1994 MVP. He ranks third in blocks and ninth in steals, as his defensive win shares is fourth all-time.

Ewing was rookie of the year, an 11-time all-star and made the all-defensive team three times. He stands eighth in blocks and 26th in both rebounds and points. His defensive win shares is ninth-best.

Dantley was rookie of the year, a six-time all-star and had a seven-year stretch where he averaged 29 points a game. He is 33rd in points, ninth in free throws made, 41st in player efficiency rating, and 19th in offensive win shares.


Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, Sheryl Swoopes, Tom Izzo and owner Jerry Reinsdorf

Shaq and Iverson make this a strong group, but also Swoopes was one of the early stars of the WNBA. Izzo has 558 career wins, seven Final Fours and the 2000 national championship. Reinsdorf was the owner of the Bulls during the six-title run.

I’ve always believed Yao didn’t deserve recognition as a player, but he likely got in as an ambassador of the sport as much as his scoring and rebounding.

Now my top three?


Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Jerry Lucas

West was selected to 14 all-star games, a nine-time NBA Finalist, and MVP of the ‘69 Finals (even though he lost to the Celtics).

Robertson was a 12-time all-star who burst on the scene, nearly averaging a triple-double in his first year before achieving it in his second season. His first eight seasons he averaged 30 points, 10 assists and 8 boards.

Lucas was rookie of the year on the same team in 1963-64 when Robertson won MVP. He went on to seven all-star games and one title.


As my article last week noted, we don’t know the incoming class yet, but it could include Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups. With all the guys eligible at once, the group accounts for 44 all-star games, two MVP awards, co-rookies of the year and a Finals MVP.

Four of them (not including Hill) are ranked in the top 50 in career win shares.


Michael Jordan, David Robinson, John Stockton, Jerry Sloan and C. Vivian Stringer

You have the greatest SG ever, arguably the best PG ever and one of the best, athletic big men ever, combined with two coaching legends.

That’s 34 all-star games, 22 all-defensive team awards, six MVP awards, eight championships, six Finals MVPs, two rookie of the year awards, and two defensive player of the year awards. Jordan and Robinson are two of only four guys to win MVP and defensive MVP (Olajuwon and Kevin Garnett are the others).

Stockton is NBA’s all-time leader in steals and assists (15,806, nearly 4,000 more than the no. 2 on the list).

Sloan retired as the third-winningest coach in league history. Stringer will soon top 1,000 career wins this season at Rutgers.

Can any class top that? Maybe, but it isn’t here yet. The Class of 2021 will bring Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. Those three account for a whopping 11 NBA titles, 48 all-star games and four MVP awards. All three are in the top 20 in career scoring.

And nobody comes close in career earnings, either. According to basketball-reference.com, Garnett is the highest-paid player in history at $326.3 million, with Kobe just missing him at $323.3 million. Throw in Duncan’s $236.3 million, and this class adds up to $886 million (not including endorsements and other outside deals)

Jeff Linville News Editor
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_Jeff-new-mug.jpgJeff Linville News Editor

By Jeff Linville


Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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