To make the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is an accomplishment of a lifetime. Just think for a second about the odds a player is up against. Out of all the basketball players in the world, the number of players that make it onto their high school team is a small percentage. That number gets chopped down even further when it comes to players who make it to a college team. The number that gets to play professionally is microscopic. From that minuscule percentage, the Basketball Hall of Fame has to pick a select number of players every year.
This year, the Hall of Fame saw 13 new entries, among those were former Spurs legend Manu Ginobili, Killer Crossover king Tim Hardaway, as well as elite coaches Del Harris and George Karl.
Experience is really key in knowing when someone will be a Hall of Famer. Anyone with 10 or more years in the NBA will be able to show if they are worthy of the Hall or not. Players with six years or less of experience are evaluated based on their production up to that point in their careers. There are enough cases of players getting off to Hall of Fame-caliber starts to their careers, then by Year 7 the production tails off because of either injuries or other reasons. In between Years 6 and 10 is where players really start to stake their Hall of Fame claim.
Players destined to be the greatest in the sport change the game, draw fans, and fill stat books throughout their careers. To make the Hall of Fame, I judged these active players on three major categories: individual accolades, cultural impact on the game, and lastly, the most important factor, winning.
The surefire locks
These are the players who checked all three categories.
There should be no surprise with this selection. As a top-three player of all time, this legend deserves to be inducted pre-retirement. James is a four-time NBA champion, four-time Finals MVP, and four-time NBA MVP, with 18 All-Star selections. He is also a six-time member of the All-Defensive Team.
Beyond all that, James is, without a doubt, the most influential player in the world. He was nicknamed The Chosen One and signed a $90 million contract with Nike out of high school. The whole world expected King James would be a Hall of Famer before he even stepped foot in the league. And in 19 years so far, he’s delivered on those expectations.
In 2009, six players were drafted before Curry, which could be one of the biggest mistakes in NBA draft history. After 13 seasons, he is a four-time NBA champion and two-time NBA MVP. He is the only player in NBA history to win the MVP unanimously. Curry is an eight-time All-NBA member with two scoring titles to his name. He owns the records for 3-pointers made all time and in a single season.
Curry has changed the NBA with his long-range shooting. Go to any high school gym and you will see players – regardless of position – shooting from as far as they can, dreaming of being the next Chef Curry to cook teams in big games.
He’s one of the best pure scorers of all time. His seven-foot height and otherworldly skills make him one of the toughest players to guard. Ever. Durant's career started in 2007 where, for some strange reason, he ended up being drafted second overall instead of first.
He ended his first season as the Rookie of the Year. He has since won two NBA championships and two Finals MVPs. He has accumulated 12 All-Star selections, four scoring titles, an MVP award, 10 All-NBA selections, and a couple of All-Star MVPs. And he’s not done yet. Expect more accolades to be added to that list in the coming seasons.
These are the players who have been putting up major numbers for a long time but need that ring to complete their resumes.
Drafted fourth overall in the 2005 NBA draft, Chris Paul has played 17 seasons and accumulated over 40,000 minutes on the court. A throwback Point God, he has 11 All-NBA selections, 12 All-Star selections, nine All-Defensive Team selections, and the 2005-06 Rookie of the Year award. A ring will only strengthen his case to make the Hall.
After spending his first three seasons coming off the bench in Oklahoma City, Harden relocated to Houston and turned the Rockets into perennial playoff contenders. He owned the scoring title for three straight years from 2017 to 2020 and was the league leader in assists from 2016 to 2017. That’s just a testament to how potent an offensive weapon the 2018 MVP has been throughout his career. His gaudy numbers coupled with a championship will only make his Hall of Fame case undeniable.
Westbrook has more triple-doubles than any player in history and averaged the feat for an entire year on four occasions. If that wasn’t a big enough argument for the Hall of Fame, then there’s always his list of accomplishments. He has been named MVP, has made the All-NBA team nine times, and is a nine-time NBA All-Star. In his prime, he won the scoring titles twice and led the league in assists three times. Don’t let the past season fool you. Westbrook has done enough to make the Hall of Fame. All he needs now is a championship to shut down all the doubters of his HOFer status.
Although early in their career, they have already accumulated more hardware than most players.
The Greek Freak, at just 27 years old, already boasts a historic resume. He is a champion and one of only three players to win regular season MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP in the same season. He will end up being a top 10 player of all time when he hangs up his sneakers. Antetokounmpo will only continue to add to his Hall of Fame case from this point on in his career.
Only seven years into his career, Jokic—considered by almost everyone as the best passing big man of all time—is a back-to-back MVP, a four-time All-NBA member, and a four-time All-Star. Internationally, Jokic has won the ABA MVP twice and was named the Serbian Player of the Year in 2018 and 2021. The Joker is well on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer.
Already a pro player before entering the NBA in 2018, Doncic went on to win Rookie of the Year in 2019. By his second season, he was already seen as a top-five player by making it to the All-NBA First Team. He’s made that team three straight times in his young career. Given his style of play and the trajectory of his team’s success, I won't be surprised if he ends up an MVP with some rings on his fingers. All that is enough to make him a future Hall of Famer.