Look, I am sincerely happy for Mitch Richmond. And please don't pelt me with any of his bobblehead dolls for saying what I am about to say.
However, when Richmond's selection to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was announced Monday . . . well, it was another illustration of why the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is not in the same class as the other halls of fame in the major sports.
Richmond was an excellent basketball player. I'm not feeling that he was a Hall of Famer.
He was a six-time All-Star but was never a First Team NBA selection, which means he was never among the best five players of his era. He had great, fun seasons for the Warriors and the Kings but his only NBA championship occurred in when he dribbled out the clock for the Lakers in 2002 after playing very few minutes. He did win an Olympic gold medal in 1996 but again, wasn't one of the bigger stars on that USA team.
So, yes. Richmond represented hoops excellence. Was he in the top tier of the top tier of his game? Not in my mind. And that's what I have always believed should constitute a Hall of Famer.
Yet if you compare Richmond's credentials to his sport's other Hall of Famers . . . well, he probably does fit. His status as a fine human being and popular teammate certainly helped his case with the Hall of Fame voters. Although we don't know for sure. Why? Because those voters are anonymous. Say what you will about the media members who pick the Hall of Famers in baseball and basketball. But at least those voters' names are made public. And as a Baseball Hall of Fame voter, I always reveal my choices, as do many of my colleagues.
The bigger problem is the Basketball Hall's very framework -- and its questionable non-exclusiveness.
Let's check the scoresheet. Not including this year's class, there are 326 basketball individuals in the Naismith Hall. That compares to the 306 individuals in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has inducted only 280 men. Think about all of that, in light of these factors:
1. The Baseball Hall of Fame's first class of inductees was selected in 1936. The Basketball Hall inducted its first group in 1959. Yet the Basketball Hall already has more inductees than baseball. (The Pro Football Hall of Fame did not exist until 1963, when it inducted an initial class.)
2. A basketball team can put only five people on the court at the same time. A baseball team fields nine players -- or 10 in the American League since 1973. A football team fielded 11 players in the days before offensive and defensive platoons existed, and has fielded 22 players since then. Yet even though the Basketball Hall allows dramatically fewer players to perform and compete in a given season, it has chosen to induct far more players than the other two sports.
Don't those two factors scientifically define the adjective "diluted?"
I say yes, even if you account for basketball's inclusion of female players and contributors, plus college and amateur and international players. The Hockey Hall of Fame has similar inclusive criteria. Yet the Hockey Hall has only 259 inductees, 67 fewer than the Basketball Hall.
Perhaps the mindset of Naismith Hall voters, whoever they are, is to make as many of their friends and colleagues as happy as possible. And how do you accomplish that? By inducting as many of them as possible.
That isn't a crime. But I am not certain it honors their sport in the best possible way. Fans of Mitch Richmond will probably say I'm a cranky old guy who is full of cranky old baloney. So be it. But I wish that the Basketball Hall concentrated a little more on filet mignon.