The 2024 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class won’t be as star-studded as recent years, but it’ll still feature some deserving names who’ll have the orange jackets and gold ring added to their list of post-career accomplishments.
In recent years, players like Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber were let in after somewhat lengthy waits and doubts about whether they’d be enshrined. They were stars who had a profound impact on the game. Next year, could some game-changing specialists make the cut?
Carter is easily the biggest name on the list, the player who went from supernova to valuable vet through his 22-year NBA career. It’s easy to forget how the “Next Jordan” comparisons felt valid for a while when he stepped on the scene in Toronto following the 1998 lockout.
In 2001, he finished just outside the top 10 in MVP voting, averaging 27.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in taking the Raptors to within a game of the East finals. Many will remember he flew to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to attend his college graduation on the morning of Game 7 of the conference semifinals against Allen Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers, catching plenty of criticism.
Subsequently, his potential game-winner bounced off the rim at the buzzer and he was second-guessed for years after. It seemed to follow him, coloring the media’s view of him as a superstar, especially as he battled injuries his last couple years in Toronto.
Even his first few years following the tumultuous trade led to some spectacular seasons with the then-New Jersey Nets alongside Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, the last of his eight straight All-Star seasons occurring in the 2006-07 season.
From there, he was well traveled but effective in ways other players of his stature wouldn’t allow themselves to be, going to Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento (remember that?) and Atlanta.
He crossed the 25,000-point mark, good for 20th all-time. The 19 ahead of him are all either Hall of Famers or locks to get there because they’re still playing (or just-retired Carmelo Anthony). He never made an NBA Finals, but there’s not even a question whether he gets in.
Billups was the Finals MVP in 2004 for the Detroit Pistons, but he’s worth far more than that, even though he was a vagabond early and late in his career. He’s far longer into his candidacy than a few others, having retired after the 2013-14 season. But his résumé gives more credence than many would think at first blush. Basketball-Reference.com lists his Hall probability at 84.4%, not far behind Carter’s.
The championship, one more Finals appearance in 2005 and six straight conference finals appearances in Detroit (every season he spent there) play a big part in why he’s deserving. He helped lead the Denver Nuggets to a conference finals appearance after being traded from Detroit for Iverson, making seven straight. Billups crossed the 15,000-point and 5,000-assist marks despite his turns and battles with injuries at the beginning and end of his career.
Seemingly, it’s a matter of time before Billups gets in. Might as well be now.
Sneakily, Marion has a strong case. Steve Nash gets a lot of credit for the seven-seconds-or-less Phoenix Suns who terrorized the league for more than a few years, along with Amar’e Stoudemire. Marion was first in win shares per 48 minutes behind Nash in 2005-06, the year Stoudemire missed due to knee surgery. Marion was the two-way glue for those Suns teams, being a small-ball big while also an adept 3-point shooter. He averaged 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds his first nine seasons with Phoenix, then transitioning to a valuable cog in stops in Dallas, Toronto and Miami.
In Dallas, he was a sixth man for the Mavericks and key as they caught fire in the 2011 playoffs, culminating in their surprising championship win over the favored Miami Heat. Marion totaled over 17,000 points and 10,000 rebounds, averaging just under 16 points and over nine rebounds. His defensive versatility will help, leading the league in steals twice, and the advanced stats love him. His Hall probability stands at 75.6%.
Stoudemire was a comet when he linked with Marion and Nash, particularly the latter during Nash’s MVP run in 2005. Before his knee surgery — which many thought was a career killer before he returned and developed as a deadly pick-and-pop player — he was the most explosive finisher around the rim in the league. He was unstoppable in the conference finals in 2005, averaging 37 points and 10 rebounds against eventual Finals MVP Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs, including a game-saving block on Duncan in the Suns’ lone win.
It’s almost forgotten he had a debilitating knee surgery that has cost careers, but he evolved his game and was effective for years after. He led the Suns in win shares per 48 minutes in 2008 and 2010 when he was back at full health. He made five All-NBA teams, including 2010-11 in New York after signing as an unrestricted free agent, along with making six All-Star Games. His knees were bound to give out on him, as injuries caught up shortly after Carmelo Anthony’s arrival in 2011. But from 2004-11, he was undeniable, averaging 23.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks playing various roles for the two franchises.
He was effective until 2014-15 with Dallas after being waived by the Knicks, retiring shortly after the 2015-16 season. He’s one of those players who if he played today, he’d be even more valuable as a finisher and midrange shooter than he was in his prime. Basketball-Reference lists him as having a 72.9% Hall probability.
Noah was a face of the rough-and-tumble Chicago Bulls of the early decade, a thorn in the side of the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. When healthy, Noah was a versatile, emotional defender who could make plays better than most at his position. Noah was a two-time champion at the University of Florida and a two-time All-Star with the Bulls, making the first team in 2013-14 and also winning Defensive Player of the Year that season, helping keep the Bulls afloat in the absence of star Derrick Rose. He was the consistent piece in Tom Thibodeau’s aggressive defensive strategy many other teams copied, but other teams didn’t have a Joakim Noah. His per-game stats don’t jump off the page because he wasn’t a great scorer, but considering his college résumé and general effect on the game he has a stronger case than many realize (8.8 points, 9.0 rebounds for his career).
If the Hall lets in specialists, Crawford will be an easy admission, but it will set a precedent of sorts. Following in the mold of Ricky Pierce and Vinnie Johnson, Crawford was a scoring machine wherever he went, and more than that, a threat to embarrass even the best defenders on a nightly basis. He and Lou Williams are tied for Sixth Man of the Year awards with three, and Crawford embodied what the award is about.
He fell just short of the hallowed 20,000-point mark, but averaged nearly 15 a game for his career, playing for nine teams — scoring 50 in a game for four different teams, an NBA record. He wasn’t pigeonholed in one position or another but managed to be valuable in all of his stops, scoring nearly 21 in 2007-08 with the Knicks, and 18.6 in 2013-14 with the Clippers in Doc Rivers’ first season as a coach. If there’s a basketball heaven for unabashed gunners like there are for defensive specialists, the gates could eventually open for Crawford.