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Hall Of Fames Should Be Reserved For The Very Best

L’Observateur / June 17, 1998

I was listening to ESPN radio the another night while driving home from a ballgame when the announcers began discussing Dennis Rodman’s six- point, 14-rebound performance in Game Four of the NBA Finals.

The discussion soon turned to Rodman’s qualifications for the basketball Hall of Fame. One of the announcers disagreed that Rodman is a candidatefor immortality, saying that if Rodman is inducted in the Hall of Fame, it should be opened to anyone.

He, in my opinion, was exactly right. Rodman has been a good player,having led the NBA in rebounds for most of the decade. But that is what heis, a good player and rebounder, not one of the best players of all-time.

Hall of fames should be just that – hall of fames. The best of the best, thecreme de la creme. It should not be opened to merely very good players butto the best who have ever played their respective sports. Put it this way,would you compare Rodman to the Wilt Chamberlains, Oscar Robertsons, Magic Johnsons and Michael Jordans of basketball? With this year’s title, Rodman has won five NBA championships (three with Chicago, two with Detroit), which is more than most players who have played the game can say. And yes, he did play a role in helping thoseteams win those titles. But can you honestly say that he elevated thoseteams the way Johnson and Jordan did? Every year, the standards for being inducted into a hall of fame seem to be lower. Looking at the NBA now, I would say that only a very select few -Jordan, John Stockton, Akeem Olajuwon – deserve induction. Those threehad the ability to lift their teams to higher levels, something that few other NBA stars can presently say.

Baseball is the same way. Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds, PaulMolitor and Roger Clemens are shoe-ins for the hall. They have achievedexcellence over a long period of time. Ivan Rodriguez, Greg Maddux, FrankThomas, Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr., Roberto Alomar, Wade Boggs andDennis Eckersley will probably join them.

But all too often, people are all too quick in calling a player a hall-of- famer. A few years ago, there were many who said players such as RubenSierra, Carlos Baerga and Hideo Nomo were almost certain to be inductees one day. Would you put any of those in Cooperstown today?And then there are players like Pete Rose, Albert Belle and Rodman. Sure,every sports superstar has had their problems. If we were to eject everyhall of famer who has had a flaw, the halls would be empty. But if aplayers’ actions hurt the image of their sport, their qualifications for induction should be severely scrutinized.

Football has had a tendency to induct a number of players from individual great teams, such as the Packers of the 1960s and the Steelers of the 1970s, while overlooking many who made contributions in the game’s growing years.

If one wants to look at a true hall of fame, check out the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s which has the strictest requirements for its members. Its requirements are so strict, in fact, that with the numberof golfers now on the tour and today’s talent pool, there may never be another inductee.

Somewhere between letting everyone in and letting nobody in must be the answer. A way must be found to make hall of fames what they wereintended to be – monuments to the best to ever play their sports – instead of open invitations to the Rodmans of the sports world.

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