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Hall of Fame Players With the Shortest Waits Before Induction

Posted by Neil Paine on January 12, 2011

Since there's a certain primacy to players who required fewer "ballots" for Hall of Fame induction, here is everyone in the Basketball Hall of Fame who played in the NBA/ABA/BAA, sorted by the fewest years between their final NBA/ABA/BAA season and the HoF class in which they were inducted:

Player Final Yr Inducted Diff
Bob Cousy 1 1970 1971 1
Ed Macauley 2 1959 1960 1
George Mikan 2 1956 1959 3
Andy Phillip 2 1958 1961 3
Elgin Baylor 3 1972 1977 5
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1989 1995 6
Charles Barkley 2000 2006 6
Larry Bird 1992 1998 6
Bill Bradley 1977 1983 6
Wilt Chamberlain 1973 1979 6
Clyde Drexler 1998 2004 6
Alex English 1991 1997 6
Julius Erving 1987 1993 6
Patrick Ewing 2002 2008 6
John Havlicek 1978 1984 6
Elvin Hayes 1984 1990 6
Magic Johnson 1996 2002 6
Michael Jordan 2003 2009 6
Jerry Lucas 1974 1980 6
Karl Malone 2004 2010 6
Moses Malone 1995 2001 6
Kevin McHale 1993 1999 6
Hakeem Olajuwon 2002 2008 6
Robert Parish 1997 2003 6
Bob Pettit 1965 1971 6
Scottie Pippen 2004 2010 6
Oscar Robertson 1974 1980 6
David Robinson 2003 2009 6
Bill Russell 1969 1975 6
John Stockton 2003 2009 6
Isiah Thomas 1994 2000 6
Bill Walton 1987 1993 6
Jerry West 1974 1980 6
Tiny Archibald 1984 1991 7
Rick Barry 1980 1987 7
Joe Dumars 1999 2006 7
Walt Frazier 1980 1987 7
Pete Maravich 1980 1987 7
Wes Unseld 1981 1988 7
Dominique Wilkins 1999 2006 7
Dave Cowens 1983 1991 8
Cliff Hagan 1970 1978 8
Dan Issel 1985 1993 8
Bob Lanier 1984 1992 8
Willis Reed 1974 1982 8
Nate Thurmond 1977 1985 8
Dave DeBusschere 1974 1983 9
Hal Greer 1973 1982 9
Drazen Petrovic 1993 2002 9
Dolph Schayes 1964 1973 9
James Worthy 1994 2003 9
Billy Cunningham 1976 1986 10
George Gervin 1986 1996 10
Tom Gola 1966 1976 10
Earl Monroe 1980 1990 10
Calvin Murphy 1983 1993 10
Dave Bing 1978 1990 12
David Thompson 1984 1996 12
Bob McAdoo 1986 2000 14
Lenny Wilkens 1975 1989 14
Bob Davies 1955 1970 15
Sam Jones 1969 1984 15
Bill Sharman 1961 1976 15
Paul Arizin 1962 1978 16
Connie Hawkins 1976 1992 16
Adrian Dantley 1991 2008 17
Gail Goodrich 1979 1996 17
Jack Twyman 1966 1983 17
Walt Bellamy 1975 1993 18
Frank Ramsey 1964 1982 18
Dennis Johnson 1990 2010 20
Tom Heinsohn 1965 1986 21
K.C. Jones 1967 1989 22
Slater Martin 1960 1982 22
Jim Pollard 1955 1978 23
Joe Fulks 1954 1978 24
Clyde Lovellette 1964 1988 24
Bailey Howell 1971 1997 26
Bob Houbregs 1958 1987 29
Bobby Wanzer 1957 1987 30
Neil Johnston 1959 1990 31
Al Cervi 1953 1985 32
Harry Gallatin 1958 1991 33
Dick McGuire 1960 1993 33
Vern Mikkelsen 1959 1995 36
George Yardley 1960 1996 36
Gus Johnson 1973 2010 37
Arnie Risen 1958 1998 40
Buddy Jeannette 1950 1994 44
Maurice Stokes 1958 2004 46

This is not necessarily a list of players with the shortest time between retirement from basketball and HoF induction. In most cases, "retirement from the NBA/ABA/BAA" and "retirement from basketball" are the same thing, but it's possible for a player to delay his eligibility by playing in a minor league after retiring from the "majors".

1 - Cousy initially retired in 1963, which would have made him eligible for the Class of 1969. However, he returned to the NBA with the Royals for 7 games in 1969-70. After re-retiring, he maintained his earlier eligibility from 1969.
2 - Inducted before HoF established the 5-year waiting period.
3 - Baylor played 9 games before retiring early in the 1971-72 season, so for the Hall of Fame's purposes he was eligible in 1977.

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12 Responses to “Hall of Fame Players With the Shortest Waits Before Induction”

  1. AHL Says:

    So who's up next? Reggie Miller? Christian Laettener?

  2. Jared Ras Says:

    According to HOF Probability, Reggie Miller has a ~5% chance of making it, and Laettner must have less than 1.5% because he's not on the list.

    Having said that, Miller will probably make it due to media bias.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/hof_prob_career.html

  3. AYC Says:

    Hah, that's funny... Reggie will probably make it on the first ballot. Not due to "media bias", though; he'll make it because he belongs there.

  4. Rashidi Says:

    HoF Probability is obviously a bit flawed if Steve Francis is 5 times more likely to make it than Reggie Miller.

  5. Mike Goodman Says:

    Some recent Reggie HOF discussion here:
    http://apbr.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3526

    I don't know if media are biased for or against Reggie Miller. I do know the Hall is about Fame, and that he has. Mostly deserved, mostly for his playoffs, not just against the Knicks.

  6. Rashidi Says:

    Not to mention that is only judging NBA achievements whereas the hall is for the entire sport of basketball (meaning NCAA, International play, and other factors come into play).

    Antoine Walker has a 21% chance of induction using this metric (maybe for the D-League Hall of Fame), while Yao Ming is 20.9%. Yao's career could be over right now and he'd still be a first ballot hall of famer simply based on what he has meant to the game of basketball worldwide.

    Arvydas Sabonis is also absent from the list since only his NBA credentials were factored in; his international resume is much more impressive.

    In short, Reggie will make it. He had a long career, played at a reasonably high level, was a clutch playoff performer with numerous memorable moments that will be referenced for quite a long time. He was the first player to utilize the 3pt shot as his primary weapon, which certainly counts for something. He wasn't the best player in the world, but let's be real, there are plenty of enshrined players who were worse.

  7. AYC Says:

    Reggie also has impressive WS numbers. For his best 10 year stretch (90-99), he averaged .192 WS48, .194 in the playoffs.

  8. BallinUSA Says:

    What a great post. Can't believe MJ is so far down on the list. I'm wondering if anyone has ever been inducted and then came out of retirement to play?

  9. Jared Ras Says:

    OK, looking at Reggie's stats, I'm inclined to believe the HOF Probability calculator made a glitch. The benchmark here is 25,000 points, which only 14 other players have done, and they're all Hall of Famers except the inevitable Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

    He also retired as (and still is) the all-time 3PTM leader.

    I just ran the calculation for HOF Probability, and it weighs too much height (negatively) and championships. Reggie also has low values in APG and RPG, but he did play 15 seasons.

  10. Jared Ras Says:

    No glitch, the calculation checks out... the HOF Probability will probably miss on this one.

  11. AYC Says:

    BallinUSA, Jordan isn't far down on the list; he was elected in his first year of eligibility, which means he's really at the top of the list, just tied with a bunch of other 1st ballot guys

  12. Joe Krupnick Says:

    I usually don't come out in defense of Steve Nash, who most certainly didn't deserve one, much less two MVPs, but don't you think it's a little odd that HOF Probability has Nash at 39%? That seems extremely low, particularly for a two-time MVP, and when you consider that guys like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady are at like 80% and when Tony Parker (??!) is at 56%. Here's a guy who's never cracked 10 winshares, who's only made the all-league team once, and has never been voted higher than 8th for MVP honors. Tony Parker.

    If Parker goes in, I'm going to have to round up the troops for my man Horace Grant, who's got 4 rings (against Parker's current 3), and has almost 50 more career winshares.