Sunday, September 7, 2008

Adrian Dantley -- better late than never

No doubt by now we've all heard the good news -- that Adrian Dantley is now, finally, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. In one of the great mysteries of the cosmos, he has been overlooked for this honor for quite a long time. In respect for that abnormality I am posting this article about it a few days late (in solidarity of him being in the Hall a few years late). Either that, or I've been busy lately. Anyway, it's pretty ridiculous that AD "was a finalist six times before finally getting at least 18 votes from the 24-member Honors Committee," (Steven Luhm, via the Salt Lake Tribune, 2008). It's ridiculous, but after looking over how generally insane people are with how they vote on sports, it's not far fetched. But just so everyone is up to speed on what he accomplished in his career, let's review:

AD, all of 6'5, does the inside work as Bailey, 6'11, and Eaton, 7'4, watch

* Career averages of 24.3 ppg (54.0 fg%, 8.7 FTA/Game, 81.8 ft%), 5.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, and 1.0 spg
* "Glory years" between 1979-1980 season and 1985-1986 season where he averaged 28.0 ppg, 30.7 ppg, 30.3 ppg, 30.7 ppg, 30.6 ppg, 26.6 ppg and 29.8 ppg in consecutive seasons
* Scored over 23,100 points in his career (23rd best all time)
* Career average of 24.3 ppg (17th best all time)
* Top 5 in PPG 5 different times: #3 (1979-1980), #1 (1980-1981), #3 (1981-1982), #1 (1983-1984), #2 (1985-1986)
* Career average of 54.0 fg% (20th best all time)
* Career True Shooting percentage of 61.7% (4th best all time)
* Made 6832 free throws (6th best all time) out of 8351 takes (11th best all time) in his career
* Career Offensive Rating of 119.3 (8th best all time)
* NBA Rookie of the year in 1976-1977
* 6 time NBA All Star (1979-1980, 1980-1981, 1981-1982, 1983-1984, 1984-1985 and 1985-1986)
* All-NBA 2nd team (1980-1981, 1983-1984)
* 1976 Olympic Men's Basketball Gold Medal
* NCAA AP All-American 1st team (1974-1975, 1975-1976)

Photograph: Deseret Morning News Archives  

So, if you didn't already know, he was a beast. He was "The Man" for those Utah Jazz teams and bridged the gap between those early, pathetic New Orleans Jazz teams and the Stockton and Malone powerhouse Utah Jazz teams of the late 80's and beyond. More than any of his stats, Adrian Dantley brought the wins. Who was The Man on the first Utah Jazz team to win the Midwest Division title? Dantley was. [since then the Jazz have been among the leaders in Midwest and Northwest Division titles] Who was The Man on the first Utah Jazz team to make the playoffs? Dantley was. Who was The Man on the first Utah Jazz team to win a playoff series? Yeah, that's right . . . Adrian Dantley. [Pistol Pete didn't do any of those things] In his later years he did take some time to mentor younger players (this is a 3:48 minute video of his career, btw) like Karl Malone and Joe Dumars, and teach them about, among other things, hard work and discipline. For all his NBA greatness, he was under-appreciated as a player -- and his career has been overlooked for quite some time.

Back in college he was destroying people -- and averaged 28.6 ppg and 10.2 rpg in 1974-1975, and in his last season of NCAA ball he averaged 30.4 ppg and 10.1 rpg. He was named National Player of the Year in 1975-1976. He was a huge part of their program, yet when he was informed that he would finally be making the hall the news hardly caused any ripple at all back there. (In fact, they actually picked up on a news report from the Deseret Morning News for their information. Isn't he an alumni member? Don't they even care for their own?)

After being The Man on a Gold Medal winning team in the Olympics he was the NBA Rookie of the year for the Buffalo Braves. The majority of his best playing days were with the Utah Jazz -- but even they seem to share part of the blame for over looking Dantley. (A crime that not only the Hall of Fame board selection committee is guilty of...)

"It's long, long, long overdue. It's an absolute disgrace that he's had to wait this long. It's terrible. I just think it's a disgrace that it didn't happen long before," said Tom Nissalke, who was Jazz coach when then-general manager Frank Layden traded Spencer Haywood to Los Angeles for Dantley in September 1979, just a few months after the Jazz moved to Salt Lake City and before they played their first game in the old Salt Palace. (T. Nissalke, via the Deseret Morning News, 2008)

Frank Layden adds that "It's long overdue and well-deserved," (Desert Morning News, 2008) but is quick to admit that part of the reason could be because Dantley's number was not even retired by the Jazz up until two years ago. (Probably should have been the 2nd or 3rd retired Jersey, but ended up being the 8th -- and most recent -- retiree in Jazz franchise history) How's that for being overlooked?

Though the Utah contingent of Layden and Nissalke are equally quick to point out that even if Adrian never played a single game in the NBA, that he should have been in the Hall of Fame because of his ridiculously outstanding High School, Collegiate and Olympic career -- and that his status of his jersey being retired is a highly invalid reason for not voting him into the Hall of Fame earlier. (btw, his High School record is 52-7) That said, he was an invaluable part of the Utah Jazz franchise, and we are all glad that he did play in the NBA.

"He carried us, he was the franchise," recalled Mark Eaton. "He was the guy you could count on for 30 [points] every night -- the one bona fide All-Star we had." (Mark Eaton via The Salt Lake Tribune, 2008)

Eaton would know, because Dantley scored enough for the both of them in the early part of Mark's career. AD was much more than just a scorer for the Jazz. The Jazz franchise had just moved to Utah -- and were still in financial trouble. (Which is why they traded their draft rights to Dominique Wilkins to Atlanta for cash back in 1981) They even played an entire season without a location name on their jerseys because there were fears that they would quickly have to move to another city mid-season!

winning ways helped to build a fanbase in Utah -- and if it wasn't for him, perhaps the Jazz would have been playing in Oklahoma City all these years? Who knows . . . What we do know, is that Adrian Dantley is finally a member of the storied Basketball Hall of Fame.

Adrian Dantley and Dominique Wilkins could have been major parts of the Jazz franchise -- just maybe not in Utah
  Photographed by Scott Cunningham for NBAE/Getty Images

To that I say that: It's better late than never.

Thanks but no thanks, voters!

Photographed by Nathaniel S. Butler for NBAE/Getty Images