The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is quite different from the halls of fame of other major North American team sports.
College career counts
Unlike the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is open to players who had great college careers but less than Hall of Fame quality pro careers. Ralph Sampson, who was voted into the basketball Hall in 2012, is a great example of someone who made the Hall on the strength of a brilliant college career. He never would have been voted in based on his injury-plagued pro career. Bill Walton is probably another example. Walton ruled college basketball and peaked at the 1973 NCAA Tournament when he led UCLA to yet another crown with one of the greatest Final Four performances in history. And, when healthy, Walton also played magnificently as a pro, leading the Portland Trailblazers to a title in 1977. But the operative words were “when healthy.” Walton didn’t play in enough games as a pro to warrant Hall of Fame consideration. It was only the addition of his college record that put him over the top. Jamaal Wilkes is another player whose pro career, coupled with his college stardom, was enough to be elected to the Hall, but whose pro career alone was problematic in terms of being worthy of the Hall. David Thompson, with the 44-inch vertical leap, was much more accomplished at North Carolina State than as a professional in the ABA and NBA. He made the Hall of Fame by virtue of his college basketball dominance.
Gals are welcomed
American football of course has no women players, and baseball and hockey also do not have women playing at the highest professional levels. But the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has room for WNBA players, women college standouts and women head coaches. In just this century alone, the basketball Hall of Fame has added Pat Summit, Sandra Kay Yow, Lynette Woodard, Sue Gunter, Cathy Rush, Vivian Stringer, Cynthia Cooper, Teresa Edwards, Tara VanDerveer , Katrina McClain, Sylvia Hatchell and Dawn Staley as either coaches or players.
Inducted more than once
Bill Sharman, John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens are all in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame both as a coach and as a player. In most sports halls of fame, you can be elected just once. They don’t add you again just because you excel in another phase of the game. The Basketball Hall of Fame also installs famous teams, such as the Harlem Globetrotters and the 1960 and 1992 U.S. male Olympic Teams. The 1992 “Dream Team” had 11 players who eventually made the Hall of Fame, so in effect they are enshrined more than once.
International players are elected
Even though he holds the world lifetime home run record, Sadaharu Oh is not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. What he accomplished in the Japanese leagues is not transferrable to America. The Baseball Hall of Fame in America is available only to players who participate in American Major League Baseball. And of course American football is not an international sport, with few countries other than the U.S. and Canada playing it. Again basketball is different. International players and coaches who are almost unheard of in America are eligible to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Oscar Schmidt, Lidia Alexeeva, Pedro Ferrandiz, Mirko Novosel, Alessandro Gamba, Hortencia de Fatima Marcari, Drazen Dalipagic and Dino Meneghin are not that well known in America, but all of them have been elected in this century to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has also admitted a high school coach (Morgan Wootten), early African-American pioneers of the game and American Basketball Association stars.
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