INDIANAPOLIS --- I am very, very pleased that Dennis Johnson has finally been selected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
I really didn't think it would ever happen. After all, he last played in 1990. Either the voters got it, or they didn't, and it looked to me as if they did not.
Lots of stuff is going on behind the scenes at the Hall. Jerry Colangelo is in charge now, and he is shaking things up. I don't know the details, but he has looked into the voting mechanism and says it has to change. The fact that both Dennis and Gus Johnson are now being recognized is no accident.
Gus was always a borderline case for me, simply because of longevity. But there was no denying his peak value, as Bill James might say. For those of you who are too young to remember him, Gus Johnson was a trend-setting, thoroughly modern player. He was 6-6, weighed a chiseled 225 pounds, was a certified leaper, and he was Ram tough. He made an instant impact on the NBA.
Now that DJ has been accounted for, my next crusade is for Maurice Cheeks. Mo Cheeks was the perfect point guard. He always thought pass first, but he was a deadly open (however reluctant) jump shooter, and when he would make one of his many steals between the top of the circle and mid-court it was bye-bye as he took it to the hoop.
Defensively Cheeks was amazing, with an unerring instinct of when to double so as not to get burned on any ball reversal. He just knew, is all I can say.
There ought to be a place for him in the Hall just for the night he stepped in and sang the anthem when the young girl forgot the words. Surely, you remember that.
Anyway, the Hall is in for a shake-up. What worries me, however, is that colleges are being crushed by the NBA-ization of the Hall. For the third straight year there were no college coaches selected, and I'm past the point of remembering when a player whose sole calling card happened to be college basketball was enshrined. The Hall has always prided itself on being a one-size-fits-all affair, but now it seems to have forgotten its stated obligation to honor college players.
In other words, however much you may dislike him --- don't you dare lie to me and say you don't --- Christian Laettner was one of the handful of greatest achievers in the history of college basketball and is long overdue to be put in the Hall.