Antawn Jamison of the Los Angeles Clippers entered Wednesday night's game in Boston against the Celtics with 19,997 career points. When he hit a three pointer early in the second quarter, he became just the 39th player in NBA history to hit that plateau. It's an amazing achievement and one of which he should be extremely proud. I for one remember many of those points very fondly, especially the ones that carried my fantasy basketball team during the 2000-2001 season.
As though he really liked the nice round number, he steadfastly refused to make another shot Wednesday, even missing two free throws.
Clippers television broadcaster Mike Smith has been saying all season that Jamison will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. His logic is that every other player in NBA history to amass 20,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists is either already in the Hall of Fame, or will be as soon as he's eligible (guys like Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan).
To which I saw, settle down Mike Smith.
His statement is factual. But we also know that correlation is not causation. Just because all of the players who've accomplished the feat so far are in the Hall doesn't mean that all players forever will be.
Smith has actually over-complicated the case unnecessarily. Now that Jamison has joined the club, there are only 20 players in the 20K/8K/1K club. But guess what? The assists don't matter. The same 20 people are in the 20K/8K club; which makes sense, because if you're not getting at least one assist for every 20 points you're scoring then your teammates would have killed you long before you got to 20,000.
Likewise the rebounds aren't a significant differentiator here. The members of the 20,000 point club have one very specific thing in common -- they all played NBA basketball for a long time. (Tracey McGrady isn't a member not because he wasn't a great scorer but because he didn't play enough games.) Forwards who play that long probably should get 8,000 rebounds, and Jamison's career average of 7.8 rebounds per 36 minutes is nothing to write home about. It's pretty good for a small forward, not good for a power forward, befitting the dilemma he lived throughout his career.
So really, it all comes down to points. And even there, the broad numbers are very favorable for Antawn. The 19 prior members of the 20K/8K club are all in the Hall or on their way -- and 19 for 19 is good, that much is true.
But if you look exclusively at points, there are exactly twice as many members of the 20K club without Jamison, 38. Of those 38, 26 are already in the Hall of Fame, two are retired, not yet eligible for the hall but on their way (Shaq and Allen Iverson), and eight are active and almost certainly on their way (Vince Carter is the only borderline case). That makes 35 or 36 of the 38 20K scorers besides Jamison who are in the Hall or will be soon enough. So Mike Smith's contrived points/rebounds/assists case has a 100% success rate, but the 20K point club is about 95% all by itself.
But who are those other two guys? Mitch Richmond (20,497 career points, retired in 2002) and Tom Chambers (20,049 career points, retired 1998) are the only two 20K points scorers in NBA history who are eligible for the Hall but have not been elected (not yet anyway).
Richmond made six All Star teams in his career and eventually won an NBA championship (albeit as a bit player on the Lakers at the end of his career). He was an NBA Rookie of the Year and was an All Star Game MVP. He was a five time All NBA selection. Chambers made four All Star teams and also an ASG MVP. He made multiple trips to the conference finals as the best player on his team and one trip to the NBA Finals. He was a two time All NBA selection.
Jamison has made two All Star teams in 15 NBA seaons. He has never been an All NBA selection. He has never been beyond the second round of the NBA Playoffs, and only been that far twice. That is to say, in a 15 year NBA career so far, he has been a part of two playoff series wins.
He did win a Sixth Man of the Year Award, which can't hurt his case, and he has one other factor very much in his favor: he was a Wooden Award winner at North Carolina, which is a big plus given that we're talking about the BASKETBALL Hall of Fame and not just the NBA Hall of Fame.
Jamison certainly has a legitimate shot at being elected to the Hall. Obviously the vast majority of the members of the 20K club get there eventually, and his status as a great college player from a great college program definitely helps his case. But the idea that he is a first ballot lock is simply not correct. He's never had significant team success in the NBA, and that will be an anchor on his candidacy, just as it has been for a prolific scorer like Richmond.
None of this takes away from Jamison's accomplishments of course. He's been a steady presence in the NBA for 15 years, which is hard enough to do even without putting up numbers the entire time. Hopefully he can be a part of a deep Clippers playoff run that helps to shore up the weakest part of his resume.