The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame just announced their 2008 inductees. Among the people that have achieved one of basketball’s highest honors is long-time color commentator Dick Vitale.
The inductee field was stacked with one of the better groups in the last few years. Pat Riley, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Adrian Dantley, Cathy Rush and Bill Davidson were also inducted alongside Vitale.
Now I’m all about subjectivity playing a role while dishing out accolades but has Dick Vitale really contributed that much to the game of basketball? This is like if Roger Ebert were to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in front of a bunch of actors during this year’s Oscar’s.
Could you imagine what it would look like if Ebert were to receive a prestigious lifetime film award before someone like Tom Hanks? If that happened, Tom would probably be second-guessing his body of work like a daytrader buying dot.com stock.
If Adrian Dantley was a finalist for six years before getting inducted, I would have let Vitale sweat it out a little longer. Take a look at the Hall’s finalist press release. Each nominee has a laundry list of statistics behind their name. There are clear, objective measurements of success. For example; 5 NBA championship rings, 24,000 career points and 11,000 career rebounds, .908 for coaching winning percentage. These are tangible ways to back up a Hall of Fame nod.
Now take a look at Vitale’s little blurb. It says that he was a “successful” coach on various levels and that his one-liners were an “integral part of college basketball’s popularity.”
Vitale had a short-lived but solid career at the University of Detroit as he compiled 78 wins and 30 losses. That momentum earned him the head coaching spot for the Detroit Pistons. He went 34-60 before getting fired just into his second year.
So let’s review the notable nominees whom Vitale finished ahead of. Don Nelson, a three-time NBA Coach of the Year who is behind only Lenny Wilkens in career wins, was named one of the top 10 coaches of all-time in 1996 yet was not inducted this year.
Dennis Johnson is a three-time Hall of Fame nominee and yet Vitale got in before him! Dennis “The Microwave” Johnson. For those of you who have forgotten, this man was a Ben Gordon on steroids who could stick a man like Joe Dumars. This man was one of the best clutch performers the game has ever seen.
Another notable nominee is Chris Mullin. Now I know that may sound weak to NBA fans but consider his body of work. Mullin dominated with his play on all levels. He was a McDonald’s All-American as a high schooler coming out of Brooklyn, he was an outstanding collegiate player. While playing at St. John’s — one of the premier programs back in Mullin’s day — he was Big East Player of the year three times. I mess up making Spaghettio’s in three tries. How does someone win an award like that three times? Throw the Wooden Award and the all-time St. John’s scoring title. Not too shabby even without his NBA accolades.
I realize that people really enjoy Dick Vitale’s commentary. I can appreciate that he entertains on televised broadcasts and that’s all good. Tony Danza entertains people but you don’t see him getting some sort of lifetime work accolade. But honestly, Dick Vitale gets into the Basketball Hall of Fame?