Boston: The Place for the Theoretical NBA Hall of Fame?
Posted by Zach Lowe on Sep 16, 2009
Earlier this week, the Painted Area made a very convincing case for an NBA-only Hall of Fame to augment the current HOF, which may or may not marginalize the world’s best basketball league in favor of honoring people such as Joan Crawford.
Great idea—except M. Haubs decided it should be located in Los Angeles. We all know that can’t be. Sure, the Lakers have won 10 titles in Los Angeles (and lost in the NBA Finals 14 other times), but housing the NBA Hall of Fame in Los Angeles just doesn’t feel right, does it? Pro hoops started (mostly) in Midwestern and Northeastern cities, partly as an indoor sport that could fill arenas when hockey teams were off. James Naismith was Canadian, after all. We need a Hall of Fame reflective of that legacy.
So where should it be? Some options:
Any city that wants to host the NBA Hall of Fame is going to have to answer this question: “Why should you get it over Boston?” Since this is a Celtics-themed blog, I don’t think I have to elaborate much. Seventeen titles, 21 retired numbers and more Hall of Famers than any other franchise makes your life easier.
There are counter-arguments, though, including the notion that Boston isn’t a “basketball town.” It is well-documented that Boston wasn’t exactly feverish in its support of the Celtics throughout the 1960s, and Red Auerbach openly complained about the sparse attendance even as the C’s won title after title.
M. Haubs addressed this when he wrote the following: Certainly, New York and Boston have a lot of pro basketball history, and quite knowledgeable fan bases, for sure. But New York is a Yankees town, first and foremost, and Boston is a Red Sox town, first and foremost. In both cities, the NFL also takes precedence over the NBA.
I don’t live in Boston—never have, actually—but it seems obvious that the Red Sox are the most popular team in the city. Should that disqualify Boston as a Hall of Fame location? I say no. The history is too much, the team is hugely popular when it is good and Boston is more about embracing History with a Capital H than almost any city in the U.S.
(Note: I’ve also never lived in Los Angeles, so I can’t assess Haubs’ claim that LA is a Lakers town more than a Dodgers town).
• New York
Literally the birthplace of the NBA, as the league as we know it began in Manhattan in 1946 when a bunch of arena owners got together and decided to start a serious basketball league that could make them money when their buildings were otherwise empty.
Yes, the Knicks own a paltry two titles (a fact I lorded over my friends growing up in Connecticut, just outside New York), but the Knicks and Nets have eight other Finals appearances between them, and the early 1970s Knicks are one of the marquee teams in league history. The New York Nets won two titles in the old American Basketball Assocation, including the league’s last championship in 1976, and featured the ABA’s biggest star in Julius Erving.
And, of course, the city itself teems with playground legends, famous point guards (including ex-Celtics Tiny Archibald and Stephon Marbury) and tourists who would drop big money to tour the Hall.
• Somewhere in Indiana
I sort of like this choice despite these very obvious counter-arguments: 1) I haven’t actually named a city, in part because I have never set foot in the state of Indiana and don’t want to just blurt out “Indianapolis” in case there is somewhere more fitting; 2) High school and college basketball have been historically been more popular; 3) The Pacers attendance post-Malice at the Palace has been miserable, lending more weight to the “not a pro hoops place” argument; 4) It’s not a tourist destination, and, no matter how charming Cooperstown, Springfield and Canton are, as a fan I sort of wish those Halls of Fame were in places I happened to be traveling anyway.
That said, Indiana is obviously a basketball hotbed that would likely devote a lot of local resources to supporting the Hall. The Pacers were, at one point, a very popular NBA franchise, and their ABA predecessors were the gold standard of that league. (The Pacers won three ABA titles). Fort Wayne is also the original home of the Pistons.
That said, I think Indiana is a distant third behind Boston and New York. But I’ve got another possibility I really like.
Philadelphia is always the forgotten East Coast city. You don’t hear college grads saying, “I really hope I get a job in either New York, San Francisco or Philadelphia” (though it was once dubbed New York’s “Sixth Borough” in a much-criticized New York Times story). And, yes, large portions of North Philly and West Philly are stab-tastic, and they hate the Celtics there.
Anyone who is under, say, 20, might have no clue about Philadelphia’s history as an NBA city, and they wouldn’t learn much by glancing at the list of NBA champions and finalists, because Philly teams barely show up there. That’s mostly because they always lost to the Celtics in those epic Eastern Conference battles during the 1960s, when the first Philly NBA team was called the Warriors, featured Wilt Chamberlain (and a host of other great players) and sported these sweet uniforms.
When the 76ers arrived in 1964 to replace the Warriors (who moved to the Bay Area in California), the team almost immediately went back to battling Boston for Eastern supremacy. The ’67 team, which went 68-13 and won the NBA title, is considered an all-time great team.
Philly would be a cool place to have an NBA-only Hall of Fame. It’d be a nice trophy for a city that doesn’t get its due.
Some other random candidates:
• San Francisco/Oakland—Solid NBA and ABA history; rabid fans
• Texas—Three NBA teams, at least two of which have been good for most of the past 20 years
• Chicago—Jordan, the Bulls and the Chicago Stags, an original NBA team
• Washington, D.C.—Another original NBA city (the Capitols), and the place where Red Auerbach started his pro coaching career.
• Seattle—Robbed of a team; why not give the city the Hall of Fame?