The 2023 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame class figures to be yet another strong class. There are all-time talents, winners who should be enshrined on their first ballot, and holdovers who deserve enshrinement. Let’s take a look at ten candidates from the 2023 class that are worthy of induction.
The First-Ballot Hall of Fame Locks.
Dwyane Wade, the fifth overall pick in a loaded 2003 draft, is one of the best shooting guards of all time. Wade was a great player on both ends of the court. A 30 PPG scorer in his prime, Wade had a seven-year stretch where he averaged 25 PPG.
During his career, Wade appeared on 8 All-NBA teams, 3 All-Defensive teams, and 13 All-Star Game teams. Wade also was able to win three championships with the Miami Heat and took home the 2006 Finals MVP award. Wade was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. Internationally, Wade picked up a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, while adding bronze medals in the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 FIBA World Championships.
Dirk Nowitzki, the ninth overall pick in 1998, spent 21 years with the Dallas Mavericks, an NBA record. Nowitzki, widely recognized as one of the greatest power forwards ever, is also viewed as the greatest European player ever. Dirk averaged nearly 25 PPG over a ten-year stretch that culminated with the Mavericks winning their only title. Nowitzki was named the MVP of those 2011 NBA Finals.
During his career, the German superstar was named to 14 All-NBA teams, 12 All-Star teams, and won an MVP award. Like Wade, Nowitzki was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. Nowitzki also won a Bundesliga MVP before coming to the United States. Internationally, Nowitzki was able to win a 2002 bronze medal in the FIBA World Championships. He currently has more career points than all but five players to ever play in the NBA.
Pau Gasol may not have had the same success as the first two players listed, but he should still be a first-ballot lock. The Spaniard star was as steady as they come, with numbers that hardly wavered over his first 14 seasons. Although he was unable to make it out of the first round before joining the Los Angeles Lakers, Gasol was the perfect co-star for Kobe Bryant. The team was able to win back-to-back championships in Gasol’s first two full seasons on the roster. Gasol made 4 All-NBA teams, and 6 All-Star teams, while also taking home a Rookie of the Year award.
Before coming to the NBA and being drafted third overall in 2001, Gasol won a Spanish King’s Cup MVP. Gasol was also named the MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Championships, where he led Spain to a gold medal. He also helped lead Spain to a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics and 2012 Olympics, and a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics. His NBA and international success, combined, is enough for him to be enshrined in his first year on the ballot.
Another European addition to the list, Tony Parker has a similar case to Gasol. Numbers alone might not have gotten the San Antonio Spurs point guard in on the first ballot. When you factor in his accolades and international impact, it is a much different story. The French star anchored the Spurs offense to four titles and won the 2007 NBA Finals MVP award. The 28th overall pick of the 2001 NBA Draft was also named to 4 All-NBA teams and 6 All-Star teams. While Parker didn’t win medals at the international stage, he did set the EuroBasket scoring record. Ironically, his record later fell to Gasol.
Former stars who should be in the Hall of Fame.
Shawn Marion, the ninth overall pick of the 1999 NBA draft, may be the most underrated player in recent memory. Ahead of his time, Marion was able to defend every position. Despite somehow never making an All-Defensive team, Marion is widely regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation. He was named to 2 All-NBA teams and 4 All-Star teams. He helped the Mavericks win the 2011 NBA Championship, as his defense was key to keeping LeBron James in check. Internationally, Marion won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics.
Marion passed the eye test as a Hall of Fame level player, but analytics lean even more in his favor. His 124.91 win shares are good for 42nd in NBA history. Every player that is above Marion is either in the Hall of Fame or not yet eligible. His 63.6 offensive win shares and 63.1 defensive win confirm what the eye test told us, that Marion was a great two-way player. Marion may not have been deserving of a first-ballot induction, but now on his fifth ballot, he should be in the Hall of Fame.
It’s a bit surprising that it has taken this long for Chauncey Billups to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The third overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft won the 2004 NBA Finals MVP award with the Detroit Pistons. Billups would go on to make 3 All-NBA teams, 2 All-Defensive teams, and 5 All-Star teams. Nicknamed Mr. Big Shot, Billups’ case grows when looking at analytics.
His 120.8 win shares are 43rd in NBA history, right behind Marion. The postseason truly elevates Billups case, as his 20.6 postseason win shares are 23rd in NBA history. Being a clutch performer who elevates their game in the postseason to an all-time elite level makes Billups worthy of induction. Entering his sixth year on the ballot, the Portland Trail Blazers head coach could finally reach the Hall of Fame.
Marion’s teammate with the Phoenix Suns, Amar’e Stoudemire was a star power forward in an era full of them. The ninth overall pick of the 2002 NBA Draft, Stoudemire’s prime was cut short due to injuries. Over an eight-year span, one of which he missed to injury, Stoudemire was one of the best players in the NBA. In that span, he made 5 All-NBA teams and 6 All-Star teams.
Stoudemire also took home the 2003 Rookie of the Year award and won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics. Injuries derailed Stoudemire’s career, but his peak makes him Hall of Fame worthy. While he may not get inducted in 2023, he should begin to warrant legitimate consideration.
Stars in their roles. How much value does the Hall of Fame place on winning?
A Hall of Fame finalist in 2022, Michael Cooper’s induction is long overdue. A key part of 5 NBA Championships with the Lakers, Cooper is one of the best perimeter defenders of all time. Larry Bird famously stated that Cooper was the toughest defender he’d ever faced and the only one who could guard him. Cooper was often tasked with guarding the opponents best player despite coming off the bench.
His 8 All-Defensive teams and 5 first-team All-Defensive teams are both tied for the most of any player who is not in the Hall of Fame. Cooper also took home the 1987 Defensive Player of the Year award despite only making two starts. He also shot nearly 40% on 3-points in 168 career postseason games. Ahead of his time, Cooper was a 3-and-D wing before they became the norm. The true definition of a star in his role, Cooper’s defensive talent should earn him induction.
The ultimate role player and winner, Robert Horry has 7 NBA Championships. That is more than anyone in NBA history that didn’t play for Bill Russell‘s Boston Celtics. While Horry didn’t have Hall of Fame stats or accolades, he is the truest test of how the Hall of Fame values winning. Throughout his career, he was one of the most clutch performers when it mattered most. He was also the definition of a glue guy, as he was asked to do different things every night.
Without the rings, Horry doesn’t have much of a Hall of Fame case, however, without Horry, his teams don’t have the rings. Players who play their role, regardless of the star on the roster, have tremendous value. There are players who have been inducted with no rings and worse stats than Horry. Honoring a player who epitomized winning and earned 7 titles in 16 seasons would place a true value on contributing to winning basketball.
The Hall of Fame Outlier.
Based on his NBA career alone, Stephon Marbury would not garner enough attention for the Hall of Fame. The fourth overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft was a good player who made 2 All-NBA teams and 2 All-Star teams. He also was able to win a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics. His NBA career, however, flamed out by the age of 30 during a tumultuous tenure with the New York Knicks. Despite career averages of 19.3 PPG and 7.6 APG and eight-year peak averages of 21.1 PPG and 8.3 APG, it appeared he would never get Hall of Fame consideration.
Marbury was able to find a new home and reinvent his legacy in the Chinese Basketball Association. Marbury has won 3 CBA Championships, 1 CBA Finals MVP award, 1 CBA Foreign MVP award, and made multiple CBA All-Star teams. In China, he has a statue and has won acting awards starring as himself in a biographical film. He is likely the greatest and most popular player in the CBA’s history. Marbury has retired but has found a new career coaching in the CBA. His impact on the growth of the game of basketball in China has made his contributions worthy of Hall of Fame induction.