for rightfully including Dr. Jerry Buss in Springfield.
I don't have anything against Jerry Buss--other than the open-collared shirt look, anyway--clearly he's the most successful owner in NBA history. Nor do I resent the rest of the hall of fame class, found here.
Yet again, however, the voters ignored one of the best basketball players ever to grace the game. And "grace" he did. Care to compare his peer reputation with that of Scottie Pippen (who is, as of today, inside the velvet HOF rope)?
Michael Lewis wrote an NYT piece on Shane Battier, the "no stats all-star," adapting moneyball principles to today's NBA. Scipio covered this on BC about a year ago. Battier, Lewis wrote, made his team better and the other team worse, largely in ways hard to quantify.
Michael Lewis would have loved Maurice Cheeks. Absent the Battier-irony, Cheeks actually was an all-star (four-times) and an all-NBA defender, as well. He also made his team better, and the other worse, in some easily quantifiable ways, ending his career as the all-time NBA leader in steals. Read that again. The NBA keeps five major statistical categories. Cheeks ended his career as the all-time leader in one of them. Jerry Buss is in the Hall of Fame.
Cheeks is still fifth all-time in steals, tenth in assists, and generally defined floor leadership in the NBA for about a ten-year period, even dragging the slowly rotting corpse of the New York Knicks into the second-round of the 1990 playoffs after his best Philadelphia years were far behind him.
Of the new inductees, Karl Malone is a no-brainer and, of course, so is Pippen and his six rings (we can argue all day about his incredibly good fortune, but that is another post entirely). But Dennis Johnson? Certainly DJ was a finals MVP (1979) and his body of work is deserving (and I am sure as hell not going to speak ill of the recently departed). But if Johnson makes the cut, so then should Cheeks.
As for Gus Johnson, the voters took complete leave of their senses. Yes, he was a spectacular player (think an ancestral Dominique Wilkins)...for about six full seasons. I can just hear Bernard King and Artis Gilmore trading "what the f...s" over the phone.
Cheeks would have been better served playing on worse teams. His scoring average certainly would have been higher, which is more compelling than all of those boring steals and assists. He shot over 50% from the floor and 80% from the line and had a knack for drawing contact.
I am unaware if he actually ever saved any children from an orphanage fire, but he did do this once:
Maybe someday that will be enough.