It's harder than you think to be a first-ballot Basketball Hall of Famer. The honor has been had by only 31 NBA players since the HoF was introduced back in 1959.
Of the 31, there have been only two questionable first-ballot entries: Bill Bradley (who, along with Manu Ginobili are the only two people to have ever won a Euroleague Title, NBA Title, and Olympic gold; unlike Manu, he was also a Rhodes Scholar and a three- time US Senator), and Alex English. English finished his career with 25500+ points, 6500+ rebounds, and 4000+ assists and was the most prolific scorer of the 1980s. Bill Bradley is a different story, though. His NBA numbers fall well short of what we expect from a HOF career, but he had a great college career and since it is not just an NBA HoF I guess he gets in.
So, what are Tony Parker's chances? First let's rundown his numbers and accomplishments.
- His career line is 17.1 ppg, 3 rpg, and 6 apg.
- His career totals are 14917, 2645, and 5247.
- His shooting splits are 49.4 fg%, 31.3 3pt%, and 74.8 ft%.
- He is a five-time All Star, has three All-NBA appearances, is a one-time Western Conference Player of the Month, and of course he has the 3 rings and the Finals MVP award. He also just led France to a Eurobasket title where he won the MVP award, while knocking out the very talented group from Spain.
There have been a total of 33 NBA players, not including Tony, that have put up Tony's current numbers of 15,000 points and 5,200 assists. Of those 33, 19 of them are in the Hall, 10 were first-ballot guys, and there are five sure-fire HoF guys still playing or not yet ballot-eligible that almost certainly will get in on the first ballot: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, and Steve Nash. That means 24 of those 33 have or will make the HoF and I think we can safely say that those five mentioned above will not only get in, but will be first-ballot guys. That makes 15 out of 33 first-ballot Hall of Famers.
If Tony never played another game he is a borderline statistical Hall of Famer (basketball-reference.com gives him an 83.4% chance right now), and he probably gets in with his three rings, Finals MVP, Eurobasket title and MVP, along with his various All-Star/All-NBA honors. Since he's not done yet, though, let's project his production and see where he hypothetically takes his place in history.
Parker played in only 66 games last season, but still accumulated 1341 points, and 499 assists. Tony has missed 62 regular season games out of 394 in the last 5 seasons which means he has played in 84.2% of games available. He played in 80.5% of last season's contests due to injury or Pop resting him.
Let's say next year he plays in 80% of the games and has 90% of the production he had in 2012-2013. He will then have 16,100 points and 5700 assists. That cuts the original number of 33 to just 17 (still not including TP, or projecting the four still playing players). 15 of those 17 are accounted for as HOFers in our previous rundown of HoFers with TP's stats. The only two that are not in are Stephon Marbury and Reggie Theus. We still have 10 first ballot guys, as well as Kobe, Kidd, and Nash on the list. So let's say that 13 of those 17 are first ballot guys. Here Tony approaches almost certain HoF status, but doesn't yet reach probable first-ballot territory.
That brings us to 2014-2015, probably the last year the Big three play together. Ideally, Tony will turn 33 around the beginning of the conference finals, and not during his vacation. Before he gets there, let's say that he once again plays in 80% of available regular season games and, this time, can only get 80% of his 2012-2013 production.
Tony will then have 17,200 points, and 6100 assists. He'll then be in the company of 13 other men, two of whom were not first-ballot guys and only one (Reggie Theus) who isn't in the HoF. Here Tony is pretty much a HoF lock and is right on the cusp of being a first-ballot guy, but probably doesn't make the cut with his career averages.
So, now the interesting part comes into play. The 2015-2016 season is going to be full of questions that can't really be addressed at the moment. Let's say Tim and Manu retire, and Tony stays with the Spurs, who still have Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs, having only missed the playoffs four times ever, are no longer title contenders, but field a well coached and competitive squad. Tony, now starting the season at 33 plays in 75% of the games and can only put up 60% of his per-game numbers from the 2012-2013 season.
Tony ends the season with 17,950 career points and 6475 assists. This is the season that TP really gets into probable first-ballot honor territory. There are currently only four guys with those numbers, and they are all legends: John Stockton, Oscar Robertson, Gary Payton, and Isiah Thomas are the only NBA players to put up that kind of line and all of them were first ballot guys. That is beyond elite.
At this point Tony is a complete certainty to make the HoF, but even with these numbers I'm not sure Tony is a sure-fire first-ballot guy because he never cracked the top five in assists per game in a season, but I think he would have a very strong chance for the honor.
Let's say that Tony plays the next two seasons after and can play in 75% of games at 12 ppg and 4 apg for those two seasons.
That puts him at 19,500 points and 7,000 assists for his career. Isiah drops off of the last list at that point, and Tony is a first-ballot HOFer as he shares his numbers with just three other players.
Just for fun, let's say that Tony plays one more season at 37. He is pretty old by now and has slowed considerably. He has a ton of experience and tricks up his sleeve and is able to play in 60 games and put up a respectable 10-4 off the bench.
Tony finishes his career with 20,000 points and 7,200 assists. Stockton falls off the very short list and Tony is left in lonely company with just Robertson and the Glove.
There are a couple of things that could keep TP from being a first-ballot guy. His per-game numbers don't jump off the page at you (he does have a 22-7 and 20-7.5) , and he hasn't put up a truly memorable statistical year; but his consistent improvement into a top-10, maybe top-five player, as well as his rings and individual accomplishments even that out. His career totals and accomplishments will put him into first ballot induction.
TP will finish his career in very elite company, almost regardless of what he does with the rest of his time on the court. He will have one of the greatest careers ever for a point guard, even more so for being a 28th pick. As far as I can tell there has been only one player (Dennis Johnson at 29th) drafted later than him who is in the HoF.
That will change when Manu gets in.
So what do you guys think? Is Tony going to make the first-ballot cut? Will our favorite Frenchman be able to play for another four seasons at a pretty high level?