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The Greatest Hall of Fame Classes Ever

Posted by Neil Paine on September 11, 2009

Well, it's finally here: today's the big day when we induct BBR blog favorites John Stockton & David Robinson, in addition to Michael Jordan, the greatest who ever played the game, into the Hall of Fame. And what better topic for a post than to see where this year's star-studded class ranks among the great classes of all time. The metric we'll be using, of course, is Win Shares, which luckily enough have recently been expanded to include every NBA (and ABA) season since 1951-52, the first year minutes played were tracked. So we basically have all of modern pro basketball history at our disposal now to run lists like this, which is very cool and makes this kind of exercise possible. Oh, and another note before we move to the numbers -- like we did in this article, I'm valuing an ABA Win Share at 25% less than an NBA Win Share (the reasoning behind this is explained in that article as well).

So, first off, which classes have the most raw Win Shares ever? And where does today's group stand?

HoF Year Player WS
1993 Julius Erving 163.3
1993 Dan Issel 143.9
1993 Walt Bellamy 130.5
1993 Calvin Murphy 83.0
1993 Dick McGuire 40.9
1993 Bill Walton 39.2
1. 1993 Total 600.9
2009 Michael Jordan 208.5
2009 John Stockton 205.3
2009 David Robinson 177.1
2. 2009 Total 591.0
1980 Oscar Robertson 191.1
1980 Jerry West 162.8
1980 Jerry Lucas 97.5
3. 1980 Total 451.3
2008 Hakeem Olajuwon 163.4
2008 Adrian Dantley 134.0
2008 Patrick Ewing 124.8
4. 2008 Total 422.2
2006 Charles Barkley 176.0
2006 Dominique Wilkins 115.4
2006 Joe Dumars 83.1
5. 2006 Total 374.5

In terms of total raw Win Shares, the Class of 2009 only trails 1993, which saw luminaries like Julius Erving get ushered in. But wait... All of the other classes on the list have only 3 inductees, while the Class of '93 has a whopping six! It's not really a fair comparison when one group has twice as many players as the rest, is it?

Okay. So what if we went with the best classes by average career WS per inductee?

HoF Year Player WS
1979 Wilt Chamberlain 249.6
1. 1979 Average 249.6
2009 Michael Jordan 208.5
2009 John Stockton 205.3
2009 David Robinson 177.1
2. 2009 Average 197.0
2001 Moses Malone 172.6
3. 2001 Average 172.6
1995 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 272.5
1995 Vern Mikkelsen 65.6
4. 1995 Average 169.0
1975 Bill Russell 162.6
5. 1975 Average 162.6

Again, today's bunch comes in second, behind the class of 1971. But wait... None of the other classes on the list have 3 players -- in fact, most have just one. I know Wilt Chamberlain was a statistical monster and all, but it's not really fair to say that a class consisting of a single Hall of Famer trumps a class of three. So, what to do about these conundrums?

How about this: If a class has 3 players or more, we use their existing average; if they have less, we fill them with "typical Hall of Famers" until they have 3, and then take their new average. And what's a typical Hall of Famer? The average WS value for all Hall of Famers is 96.0, so we'll add that value to the total for small classes, and divide by 3. This neither overcredits massive classes like '93, who topped the raw list on sheer volume, not overvalues small classes consisting of one transcendent star (like Chamberlain's 1-man class). The results:

Rank Class totWS Players Avg NewAvg
1 2009 591.0 3 197.0 197.0
2 1980 451.3 3 150.4 150.4
3 1979 249.6 1 249.6 147.2
4 1995 338.1 2 169.0 144.7
5 2008 422.2 3 140.7 140.7
6 2006 374.5 3 124.8 124.8
7 2001 172.6 1 172.6 121.6
8 1975 162.6 1 162.6 118.2
9 2003 226.5 2 113.3 107.5
10 1971 224.2 2 112.1 106.8
11 1984 223.2 2 111.6 106.4
12 1997 221.1 2 110.6 105.7
13 1973 119.3 1 119.3 103.8
14 1999 112.0 1 112.0 101.4
15 1993 600.9 6 100.1 100.1
16 1977 102.5 1 102.5 98.2
17 1992 188.1 2 94.1 94.7
18 1988 180.9 2 90.4 92.3
19 2002 177.5 2 88.8 91.2
20 1998 176.6 2 88.3 90.9
21 1960 78.1 1 78.1 90.1
22 1990 359.0 4 89.7 89.7
23 2000 171.4 2 85.7 89.2
24 2004 154.6 2 77.3 83.6
25 1959 43.1 1 43.1 78.4
26 1976 138.2 2 69.1 78.1
27 1986 136.8 2 68.4 77.6
28 1996 309.4 4 77.3 77.3
29 1991 231.1 3 77.0 77.0
30 1989 131.9 2 66.0 76.0
31 1970 26.6 1 26.6 72.9
32 1961 24.5 1 24.5 72.2
33 1982 267.1 4 66.8 66.8
34 1987 330.3 5 66.1 66.1
35 1985 84.3 2 42.2 60.1
36 1983 171.0 3 57.0 57.0
37 1978 191.5 4 47.9 47.9

That's more like it! Finally facing a fair fight, the Class of 2009 takes the rightful place atop the leaderboard as the greatest HoF class in basketball history. And let's close with a more detailed look at the top 10:

HoF Year Player WS
2009 Michael Jordan 208.5
2009 John Stockton 205.3
2009 David Robinson 177.1
HoF Year Player WS
1980 Oscar Robertson 191.1
1980 Jerry West 162.8
1980 Jerry Lucas 97.5
HoF Year Player WS
1979 Wilt Chamberlain 249.6
HoF Year Player WS
1995 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 272.5
1995 Vern Mikkelsen 65.6
HoF Year Player WS
2008 Hakeem Olajuwon 163.4
2008 Adrian Dantley 134.0
2008 Patrick Ewing 124.8
HoF Year Player WS
2006 Charles Barkley 176.0
2006 Dominique Wilkins 115.4
2006 Joe Dumars 83.1
HoF Year Player WS
2001 Moses Malone 172.6
HoF Year Player WS
1975 Bill Russell 162.6
HoF Year Player WS
2003 Robert Parish 145.7
2003 James Worthy 80.8
HoF Year Player WS
1971 Bob Pettit 133.5
1971 Bob Cousy 90.8

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7 Responses to “The Greatest Hall of Fame Classes Ever”

  1. cody w Says:

    typical....you guys always find a way to put jordan and lebron on top...keep shifting the numbers boys...you doing great!just kidding, mj is the best ever and will drag robinsonand stockton by their heals into the hall as the best class ever...kinda feels like deja-vu in a since doesnt it. you know jordan dragging lesser individuals to make them look even better in the end! however, when it is all said and done kobe will be on top, but im sure you'll no doubt find a way to rebuke that too, later boys...keep up the good work!

  2. Jason J Says:

    This is a funny post. I was thinking, if I could start a team with a core of any single year's HoF inductees, I would take this one... Kind of reminiscent of the 1984 draft with David in place of Hakeem. Just missing Chuck!

  3. Dan Says:

    Typical to find a way to keep the real greatest of all time off the top.

  4. Mike Says:

    As an aside, how about a Keltner list for Jerry Sloan the player? Looking over the questions I think he fairs better than one might expect.

  5. Craig Says:

    I don't think you need to resort to fuzzy math (averaging in guys who weren't inducted) to determine that this is the best class ever. All 3 of this year's inductees were better than than the top 3 in 93, and Jordan obviously ranks near Wilt all by himself, so throwing in the career assists leader and an all-time great center makes it no contest.

  6. Payam Sharifi Says:

    Actually Craig KAJ has the highest Win shares, but that's obviously because he played a total 7 seasons more than Wilt(including the year Wilt was out because of Knee surgery).

    Wilt was the best ever, not MJ.

  7. Alex Says:

    Adding weaker hall of famers to a hall of fame class doesn't make the class any weaker. That is like saying adding an average hall of famer to MJ's group would make them less impressive. Also, by your system, a year with no players inducted would be an average year in terms of quality, which doesn't seem right
    Better systems i could think of is sum of the squares, or just add the top 3 players of each class.
    Top 3 players of each class gives chamberlain's class a slightly below average class and the class of 93 would move down to 4th (arguably a reasonable listing depending how you view quantity vs quality)
    sum of squares (which i will devide by 3 and then take the square root of to keep the numbers reasonable) would give jordan's class a 197.5, chamberlain's class a 144.1 and class of 93 a 157.6
    Either of these, IMO, would be a better system than the one you just [months ago] laid out (deciding between the two mostly depends on how you view the chamberlain class [i like the 2nd one better])