To start off this column I want to congratulate longtime Philadelphia Flyer defensemen Mark Howe on the announcement of his upcoming induction into the NHL Hall of Fame. He is one of the greatest skaters to suit up in a black and orange sweater and his selection for the Hall was long overdue.
The great news on Mark Howe got us thinking here a Philadunkia about which former 76er is headed to the Naismith Hall of Fame next. So I want to lay out some evidence as to when the basketball junkies here at Philadunkia will be able to rejoice with the Flyers fans, as one of our own 76ers is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Honestly, there are only two retired candidates worthy of even being discussed: Mo Cheeks and Allen Iverson.
I’m going to take a harder look at each of our former superstars’ resumes while they ball’d in Philadelphia and then hypothesize a realistic year the Hall of Fame voters would consider electing them to the ultimate enshrinement.
Mo Cheeks – 1978-1993
11.1 PPG, 6.8 Assists, 2.1 Steals
15 seasons (11 in Philly), 4-time All-Star, 4-time First Team All-Defense, 3 NBA Finals appearances, 1 championship
To the majority of basketball fans in my generation, Cheeks is most known for helping out this poor little girl and her mishap in singing the national anthem(check around the :40 mark). Others may have known him for his head coaching gigs in Portland and with our Sixers. Now Cheeks is an assistant under his close friend Scott Brooks in OKC.
But to everyone older than the age of 30, Cheeks was known as the purest of point guards, steering the ship for the near-dynasty 76er teams of the early 1980’s. He was able to evenly spread the rock around several stars – Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney and Charles Barkley – and was heavily praised for his decision making on fast breaks.
As spectacular as he was one offense, you could argue that Cheeks was the greatest defensive point guard at the time of his retirement in 1993. At the time he was first on the list in steals (2,310) but now ranks fifth behind only Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. That’s Hall of Fame company if you ask me.
Outlook: Cheeks was one of 12 finalists for the 2011 class but didn’t receive the honors this time around. What I do think that will help him over time is how classic of a point guard he was. With all the Derrick Rose’s and Russell Westbrook’s of today’s NBA, voters will begin to appreciate how large of an impact Cheeks had on the game of basketball without ever becoming a go-to scorer.
The problem with the basketball hall of fame is just that; it’s the basketball hall of fame. Every class in the Hall usually has at least two non-NBA guys. Division II basketball coach Herb Brooks of Philadelphia University will be inducted this year as well as the Stanford women’s basketball coach. You never know what kind of wild card you are going to get. Cheeks’ best hope is for Jason Kidd to keep prolonging his career so he doesn’t take up his spot. My guess is that it’ll take Cheeks at least another four years before he gets his due.
Allen Iverson – 1996-2010
26.7 PPG, 6.2 Assists, 2.2 Steals
14 seasons (10.5 in Philly), 11-time All-Star, 4-time NBA Scoring Champ, 3-time All-NBA First Team, 3-time All-NBA Second Team, Rookie of the Year (1997), MVP (2001), 2-time All-Star Game MVP, 1 NBA Finals appearance.
The moment he made Michael Jordan look foolish during his rookie season, Allen Iverson was crowned as the successor to MJ’s throne. And maybe if the 76ers front office could’ve gotten him a Scottie Pippen we would be talking about his legacy quite differently today. Regardless, ‘The Answer’ is the most talented basketball player to ever don a 76er jersey. Four NBA scoring titles in the midst of Shaq’s dominance may make Iverson the best scoring guard of all-time…outside of MJ.
His steal numbers are right up there with Mo Cheeks too. There are dozens and dozens of highlights where AI is going in all alone for an easy layup after picking a player’s pocket. For as dazzling as he was on the basketball court, legal and attitude problems marred a majority of Iverson’s career.
Outlook: Will voters take into account his pathetic relationships with most NBA-related individuals? Or will they remember the Iverson who carried the entire Sixers organization on his tiny back in the 2001 run to the NBA title? It’s hard to say. And his eligibility for getting considered to the hall may now even be delayed as mulls another comeback; that is if any team wants his services.
In my opinion he has to be a first ballot member. When Michael Jordan retired, Iverson and Shaq and maybe Vince Carter were the three emerging faces of the new era. Iverson kept fan interest afloat during a dark age for the league. He should be rewarded for his efforts, as selfish as they may have been.