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Ranking the Best 10 Classes in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

The upcoming NBA Hall of Fame induction includes notable former players like Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol, and Tony Parker. Additionally, we will be ranking the best 10 classes in the history of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

These players, with a combined 19 All-NBA appearances and 37 All-Star selections, are tied for the fourth-highest total in any Hall of Fame class, thanks in part to ceremonial appearances during their final seasons.

Notably, they achieved championships nearly every year from 2003 to 2014, except for 2004 and 2008. To assess their significance, a championships added career metric will be used, focusing only on their NBA and ABA contributions.

It’s worth mentioning that this analysis doesn’t consider their entire careers. Now, let’s begin by examining the GOAT Hall of Fame class, which includes arguably the greatest player in NBA history.

1. 2009 (7.1 Championships added ) 

In 2009, the Hall of Fame class featured Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and John Stockton. Jordan’s memorable induction speech, which spawned the “Crying Jordan” meme, sometimes overshadows the fact that Robinson and Stockton, fellow members of the ’92 Olympic “Dream Team,” were inducted alongside him. Their combined achievements, including championships and MVP awards, propelled this class to the top of the rankings.

2. 2020 (6.4 championships added)

The 2020 class was exceptionally strong with Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett. It marked the first time that three MVPs were inducted together. Duncan and Bryant, both among the top 11 players in NBA history by championships added, along with Garnett, a top-20 player, made this class particularly remarkable.

3. 1980 (4.34 championships added)

The 1980 class had Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry Lucas. Linked from their early careers, West and Robertson were standout players and were frequently All-NBA First Team selections. Their accomplishments, along with Lucas’s contributions, secured this class’s position in the rankings.

4. 2023 (4.31 championships added)

In 2023, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol, and Tony Parker were inducted, forming a strong class due to its depth. While lacking some top-tier talent, the combined championships added by these players and their overall accomplishments make this class notable. Nowitzki stands out as the top player in this group.

5. 2016 (4.26 championships added)

The 2016 class included Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson, who both won consecutive MVPs and faced each other in the 2001 NBA Finals. O’Neal’s longevity and strong win share totals contributed to his higher championships added rating. Zelmo Beaty and Yao Ming, with his shortened but groundbreaking career, were also part of this class.

Ranking the Best 10 Classes in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Class of 2016

6. 1995 (4.1 championships added)

During the Hall of Fame induction, the focus was primarily on Abdul-Jabbar, who held the second position in championships added when he was inducted. Mikkelsen played a secondary role alongside George Mikan on the Minneapolis Lakers, contributing to their four championship victories spanning from 1949-50 to 1953-54, and earning six All-Star selections.

7. 1993 (4.0 championships added)

Despite being a substantial class primarily recognized for their NBA and ABA contributions, this particular group might be undervalued when assessed by championships added. Walton, in particular, is negatively affected by this metric, which fails to adequately acknowledge his exceptional performance during the initial 58 games of his injury-shortened MVP season. Additionally, considering Erving’s NBA MVP award (and three more in the ABA), this class was exceptionally accomplished in terms of accolades and honors.

8. 1979 (3.9 championships added)

Unlike the 1995 class that centered around Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the 1979 class was entirely focused on Wilt Chamberlain, the sole player inducted that year. Chamberlain, famously known as the “Big Dipper,” was joined by four coaches (Ray Meyer, Pete Newell, John McLendon), and referee James Enright. Chamberlain held the record for leading all players in championships added until Michael Jordan surpassed him in the 1990s. Chamberlain’s significant contributions contributed to making the 1979 class one of the top 10 Hall of Fame classes.

9. 2018 (3.8 championships added)

The 2018 Hall of Fame class stood out due to a rule change that shortened the waiting period after retirement from five to four seasons. This adjustment led to a unique situation where players like Steve Nash and Ray Allen, who retired after the 2013-14 season, were inducted alongside Grant Hill and Jason Kidd, who retired after the 2012-13 season. This change resulted in an unusually deep group, featuring three players ranked within the top 60 in terms of championships added. Furthermore, it included Jason Kidd, the second all-time leader in assists, Steve Nash in the third spot, and Ray Allen, who holds the record for the most 3-pointers made in NBA history.

10. 2010 (3.8 championships added)

In the year following the Hall of Fame induction of their Dream Team colleagues Michael Jordan and John Stockton, 2010 highlighted the entrance of two more highly-ranked players in terms of all-time championships added: Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen, both within the top 35. The 2010 class also included the posthumous induction of the Johnsons, Gus and Dennis, both champions known predominantly for their defensive prowess. Gus Johnson achieved success in the ABA, while Dennis Johnson won titles with the NBA’s Sonics and Celtics.

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