Adrian DantleyAdrian Dantley finally got elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

He’ll be enshrined on Friday in a ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, along with several other players, coaches, and contributors including Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, and Pat Riley.

Among other things, I like Dantley’s unselfishness and perspective when it comes to recognizing his basketball roots and to honoring the commitment he’s obviously made toward his own educational and career progress.

But first, some stats.  Dantley, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound small forward, was one of the greatest and most relentless scorers of all time.  He had so many moves that almost a third of his entire career point total came from the foul line, the result of faking out defenders. Dantley’s honors include:

  • All-American at DeMatha (Md.) Catholic High School
  • 2-time consensus All-American at Notre Dame
  • Gold Medalist, 1976 Olympics
  • Leading scorer for 1976 United States Olympic Basketball Team
  • 1977 Rookie of the Year for the Buffalo Braves
  • N.B.A. scoring titles in 1981 (30.7) and 1984 (30.6)
  • 6-time N.B.A. All Star
  • 23,177 N.B.A. points (18th all-time)
  • .540 N.B.A. career field goal percentage (highest all-time for a non-center)
  • 7 teams during a 15-year career (a dubious honor)

As is hinted, Dantley was often criticized for what amounted in retrospect to his being his own man.

Many believe that those criticisms offended too many of the anonymous members that had made up the Hall of Fame’s selection committees until now. He had been on the ballot 7 times.

Dantley, in a Denver Post interview earlier this year:

Every year around this time, and around the last week of March, I start feeling kind of funny, seeing whether they are going to say, “Yea or nay.” It’s a weird feeling when the guys say sorry you didn’t make it, you’re eligible for next year. It’s a funny feeling when you get that phone call. The last couple of years I haven’t even answered my phone.

Because they’re anonymous, we can’t know whether those individual committee members had a change of heart, whether they were replaced by new members who saw more clearly, or whether the Hall of Fame bowed to the inevitable.

HoopsVibe.com had a related thought:

The subject that’s brought up all the time for this and for other sports HOFs is what’s different now than when he retired? He hasn’t scored any more points. If he’s a HOFer now, he should have been called in his first year of eligibility.

Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz, at least, finally recognized Dantley by retiring his number in 2007.  More on that here.

“I’ll take the high road and compliment everybody who helped me in my career, especially the old-timers,” Dantley said in an interview in the Springfield Republican. “Stay positive.”

The Republican continues:

Now an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets, Dantley’s only criticism of the Hall of Fame has to do with a certain local NBA franchise.

“There sure are a lot of Celtics in the Hall of Fame,” Dantley joked. “Sam Jones lives near me, and I kid with him, saying there are a lot of Celtics in the Hall because there were only seven teams back then.”

I like that comment because — and not to take anything away from the Celtics, especially the current ones — it means I’m not the only one who feel that way. As I’ve said here before, there are plenty of non-Celtic pioneers who still deserve to be enshrined.

One last thing about Dantley, who left Notre Dame before his senior year to be available for the 1976 NBA draft (he was the 6th overall pick).  He returned to Notre Dame in 1978 to finish his degree requirements.

In my opinion, this was one of Dantley’s best moves ever, because he did it before that sort of move became popular or well known.  In any case, how many early opt-outs from college can say that, even today?

Congratulations to Adrian Dantley, a deserving player who can make history now.