With Allen Iverson getting the call from Springfield, Massachusetts that every former player dreams of, discussion is provoked on whether one of Iverson’s point guard peers, Tony Parker, is worthy of eventual Hall of Fame induction.
The committee has a large responsibility on their hands when the annual vote is held, as they have the power to make former stars truly immortal with enshrinement into basketball’s temple of eminence.
For any player, coach, or executive, there’s no greater honor than being deemed by the committee as an essential piece of basketball history. Induction is the recognition that one could not tell basketball’s story sufficiently without the inclusion of that individual into the mythical narrative of basketball’s journey from James Naismith’s imaginative opus to its preeminent ascension to a global pastime.
Tony Parker is perceived to be hovering on the border of “legendary” and “very good.” Strict interpretations of worthiness to enshrinement are often as simple as subjective association with greatness: “does this guy instantly register in your mind as a Hall of Fame player?”
Parker may not have this criterion, as he’s spent his career succeeding on a team known for its consistent yet nondescript triumph. Fellow point guards of his era like Iverson, Jason Kidd, and Steve Nash have an aura of illustriousness that Parker doesn’t possess.
Iverson built his legend around bringing a unique style of play to the league and carrying weak supporting casts. Even though he has no rings to show for it, his legacy doesn’t take much of a hit because fans have given him a pass due to the amount of production he needed to contribute to drag teammates like Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, and Theo Ratliff on overachieving playoff runs.
Nash had a couple of MVP seasons in the mid-2000s, and a benefitting staring role on some exciting Phoenix Suns teams whose high-octane offenses made them must-see TV for NBA fans.
Kidd didn’t get his championship ring until 2011, but had established himself as a slick-passing, playmaking point guard who seemed part-Magic Johnson and part-John Stockton. Even with his gaudy assist totals surpassing everyone but Stockton, only 4 players in NBA history have made more 3 pointers than Kidd. Even if he hadn’t gotten a title in Dallas, Kidd’s exclusion to the Hall of Fame would have been indefensible.
Parker doesn’t have the same credentials as these guys. He’s never won an MVP, never been named to an All-NBA First Team, and doesn’t have eye-popping statistics that distinguish Hall of Fame point guards from the mere mortals inhabiting the league.
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Parker has more career points than Magic Johnson, but also less career points than “Hall of Very Good” member World B. Free. He has more career assists than Hall of Famer Dennis Johnson, but less career assists than Derek Harper, who’s still waiting for his call from the “Hall of Very Good” after being retired for over 15 years.
Parker still has time to build on these statistics, but he’s going to be 34 in May, and entering the twilight of his career, the numbers don’t make an indisputable case for him.
Many accolades work in Parker’s favor for Hall of Fame induction, however. He’s made 3 All-NBA Second Teams and 6 All Star teams.
He’s been an All-Star more often than Chris Mullin, Reggie Miller, Pete Maravich, Wes Unseld, and Bob McAdoo. Each of those guys have been inducted to the Hall of Fame, and are considered NBA legends.
Any partially subjective admittance process is based on precedent. Players of Parker’s level have been inducted previously, so there’s no reason to exclude Parker because he doesn’t have the lofty statistics of other point guards who played in his era.
If his qualifications for first-ballot induction were on trial, then detractors may have a point. But becoming a Hall of Famer is a lot like graduating medical school: once you’re in, every member is on equal footing.
Parker has accomplished 4 times what many great players like Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing never accomplished even once: winning a championship. Parker played crucial roles on all 4 championship teams he was apart of. He was the second most important player on the first 3, and the most important player on the Spurs’ most recent.
Fairly or unfairly, he gets lumped into the “supporting cast” category great players like Robert Parish and James Worthy find themselves in. Those guys are Hall of Famers in their own right, however, and while they may not have been the most important cog in the dynasties they played for, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Tim Duncan would not have won all those championships without help from great players like these.
Parker has had tremendous influence on building basketball’s global brand as well. He’s generally recognized as the greatest French-born player ever. Only two players in NBA history had been born in France before Parker debuted (Tariq Abdul-Wahad and Jerome Moiso). Since Parker came into the league in 2001, more than 10 French natives have suited up in NBA uniforms. Parker has undoubtedly played a large role in expanding the NBA’s borders.
Any basketball scholar would find it difficult to explain the history of the game without including the achievements of Tony Parker. He’s been a consummate winner throughout his career, and has helped the San Antonio Spurs become one of the most respected franchises in the NBA. Parker’s contributions to basketball make him absolutely worthy of Hall of Fame induction after his career is over.