Back in the pre-lockout days, basketball was this awesome sport where you could earn big money playing professionally if you were good. And, if you were really good, you might just make the Naismith Hall of Fame, a hallowed ground where basketball, and not basketball-related income, was center stage.
Despite the ongoing lockout, NBA.com reports that the pool of candidates for the 2012 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame has been released.
Some of the biggest names include: Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller, Yugoslavian center Vlade Divac, NBA referee Dick Bavetta, former Philadelphia 76ers point guard Maurice Cheeks, long-time coach Don Nelson, 16-year NBA veteran Paul Silas, Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat point guard Tim Hardaway, Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks point guard Mark Jackson, former New York Knicks forward Bernard King, former Houston Rocketse coach Rudy Tomjanovich, WNBA star Rebecca Lobo and Chicago Bulls executive Jerry Krause.
Here's a longer list of nominees.
Naismith Hall of Fame finalists are usually announced during NBA All-Star Weekend, scheduled for February in Orlando, Fla., assuming that the festivities are not killed by the lockout. From there, another round of cuts to finalize the class comes in March.
Al Attles, John Bach, Dick Bavetta, Maurice Cheeks, Lefty Driesell, Bill Fitch, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Curt Gowdy (contributor category), Tim Hardaway, Spencer Haywood, former NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt (contributor), Mark Jackson, Bernard King, Jerry Krause, Reggie Miller, Dick Motta, Don Nelson, Billy Packer (contributor), Rick Pitino, Paul Silas (as a player), George Raveling (contributor), Mitch Richmond, Ralph Sampson, Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich, Gene Shue, Jim Valvano (contributor), Donnie Walsh (contributor), Gary Williams, Paul Westphal (as a player), Jamaal Wilkes.
Given his clear snub last year, Miller seems like the obvious headliner in this year's class. He's the biggest name among former players, has a lengthy track record of contributions on and off the court and provides a touch of star power, a necessary commodity every year. Pairing former teammates Miller and Jackson on the induction list could make sense too.
Divac will almost certainly fill the Arvydas Sabonis role, the biggest name international player whose global contributions to the game are undeniable. Lobo, similarly, would make a nice successor to last year's honoree Teresa Edwards, in terms of her college success and icon status.
After those three, Cheeks, an NBA champion, 4-time All-Star and exceptional two-way player might stand the best chance of induction. Hardaway was a 5-time All-Star and is best remember for his killer crossover, but he never enjoyed the postseason success that we generally associate with Hall of Fame players and he sparked a controversy back in 2007 when he made homophobic comments, which he has since apologized for.
Bavetta, the NBA's record-holder for most games officiated, is a wild-card; he will be surely be inducted at some point and it's just a matter of when, not if. Krause, the architect of the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls dynasty during the 1990s, has reportedly made many enemies among the basketball establishment and his candidacy may suffer for that fact.
The safe money on the 2012 class might be Miller, Jackson, Divac, Lobo, Cheeks and Bavetta plus ABA champion and All-Star George McGinnis representing the now-defunct league.