Chris Webber Belongs In The Hall of Fame
After not making the cut in his first two attempts to make the Hall of Fame, Webber should join the greats in Springfield in 2017.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is a frequent target of criticism and the failure to vote Chris Webber in is one of the reasons why.
Next month, during All-Star weekend, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will announce the finalists for enshrinement in their Hall of Fame.
Chris Webber will be in his third year of eligibility to join the greats of basketball history. If the third time isn’t a charm for the former Kings power forward, then something is wrong with the voters.
Last year, Webber fell victim to a rule change in eligibility that ushered in a monster class of Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, and Sheryl Swoopes being inducted as players.
This year isn’t as loaded and there are no reasons as to why Webber shouldn’t have a plaque in Springfield, Massachusetts by the end of 2017.
Let’s take a look at Webber’s resume:
Career averages of 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. The complete list of players with career averages that match his points, rebounds, and assists goes Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, and Elgin Baylor.
A five-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA, the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year, Webber is one of the best power forwards of all-time. Webber ranked 66th on ESPN.com’s rankings of best players ever and also finished 72nd on Bill Simmons’ list of the same ilk.
There are 171 Hall of Famers enshrined for their playing careers.
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The case against Webber is simple: his college career at Michigan never happened (and the reasons why don’t help his case), his ability to stay on the floor hurt his cause, and his lack of postseason success.
Webber was the star of the fabled Fab Five at Michigan, who made it to the NCAA Championship Game in both of his seasons. Even through all the success for a memorable team, the highlight of Webber’s college career is him calling a timeout that his team didn’t have, sealing the fate of the Wolverines.
Historically, none of this ever happened. All of the wins during Webber’s time at Michigan were vacated after its booster scandal that involved a booster illegally giving money to players.
Webber was one of the focal points of the investigation into the booster’s involvement and in 2002, Webber was indicted on charges including obstruction of justice and lying to a federal grand jury for misrepresenting his relationship with the booster.
To this day, Webber’s relationship with the school and the Fab Five remains icy.
Even without a college resume to be taken into consideration, Webber’s professional career should be enough to garner enshrinement.
The last knock on Webber is that he never was able to win the big one. If Webber was on a champion, there’s little doubt that he’d be a Hall of Famer. To some, Webber falls in line with Elton Brand as Antawn Jamison, players who put up big numbers and had successful careers, but were never elite.
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For Webber, that’s just not true. From 1998–99 to 2002–03, Webber averaged 24.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game. He could do almost everything.
And unlike Brand or Jamison, who spent much of their fine careers putting up great numbers on bad teams, Webber did so on a team that would probably have won at least one title if not for the misfortune of playing at the same time that Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were teammates.
When Webber arrived in Sacramento via trade in 1998, they hadn’t finished over .500 in 15 seasons. In Webber’s seven seasons in Sacramento, they never had a losing record.
No team challenged the Kobe and Shaq Lakers like Webber’s Kings did. If the Kings played in the Eastern Conference, they likely would’ve made a few Finals.
Any talk about Webber’s lack of postseason success is remiss if the infamous Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals wasn’t mentioned.
“It was the worst officiated game of my sportswriting career,” Bill Plaschke said on Around The Horn. “It was the worst officiated contest in professional basketball I’d ever seen,” Michael Wilbon echoed on Pardon The Interruption.
The Lakers were on the brink of elimination, down 3–2 in the series. The game, particularly the second half in which the Lakers attempted 27 free throws, have been the center of NBA conspiracy theories ever since.
It was controversial at the time and the conspiracy theorists gained some credibility when former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who had been caught betting on NBA games, brought the game up as proof of referees manipulating games.
Would we remember Allen Iverson the same way if he never made the NBA Finals? Probably not. Really, Iverson’s Sixers were beneficiaries of a depleted Eastern Conference while the West was loaded with the Lakers, Kings, Spurs, and Mavericks. Should Webber be penalized for the historically tough competition during his era in his conference?
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The “What If…” game is a tough one to play and we can only deal with reality, but the accomplishments are somewhat circumstantial, based in part to where a player played.
Nonetheless, history will show that Webber doesn’t have a championship or even a Finals appearance to his name.
That shouldn’t stop Webber from joining a Hall of Fame that is cluttered with those without a ring on their fingers.
Webber ranks in the top 100 in NBA history for points, field goals made, rebounds, steals, and blocks.
The list of players with as many points, rebounds, and assists as Webber is full of current and future Hall of Famers who retired with zero doubt they’d be enshrined as Hall of Famers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Jason Kidd, Pau Gasol, and Elgin Baylor.
Webber’s legacy is that he was one of the best power forwards ever to step on a court. His game was an early prototype for many of the bigs that we see today.
Webber preceded Kevin Garnett by a few years and the two basically created the prototype offensively for big men to have the offense ran through them. Well before the likes of Draymond Green, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, or Nikola Jokic serving as offensive facilitators from the post, Webber did it first.
Webber should be remembered as one of the most well-rounded power forwards to ever play. As far as basketball skills go, he had no weakness. He was athletic, an elite rebounder, could score in a variety of ways, and was one of the best big men passers of all-time.
By most accounts, he’s one of the top 75 players of all-time. You could argue that Webber didn’t make the Hall in his first two years of eligibility due to monster classes. For Webber, the third year should be a charm.
His entire career was spent mostly in the shadows, his team was never the best and he was probably never the best at his position in an era loaded with legendary Hall of Famers.
For whatever reason, Webber hasn’t resonated well historically with fans or voters. It’s time to correct that and give him the well-earned accomplishment of being a Hall of Famer.