Is Robert Horry a Hall of Fame Player? A footnote in the Boston Globe prompted the question (h/t Truehoop):
The 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame Class won’t be determined until April, but Robert Horry’s case will be very interesting in the next few months. Horry won seven titles as a player with three teams, tied for the seventh most in NBA history. Horry won more championships than Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and had an uncanny ability to make monumental shots in postseason games. Horry told the Globe two years ago he felt as if he was a Hall of Famer. Although Horry never made an All-Star team and was never the best player on his team, his Hall of Fame case could make for great debate
Dre, Arturo, and I (Patrick) got together. At first I was the only naysayer on this one, but after we had worked it through, we all thought that there are more deserving candidates that should get in before Horry.
DRE: No. Well, maybe. The standards seem low. I dunno.
ME: Hell no. The Hall is for great players, not good players.
ARTURO: Yes, but barely. But then he changes his mind later (read on!).
What does Hall of Fame mean?
The first question we had to ask is: What actually makes a Hall of Famer? We all had different approaches.
DRE: The one sentence answer is “sustained regular season greatness.” This a combination of The Brocato Prime (in which we evaluate the player's six best seasons), and longevity. Yes, it takes luck to stay healthy, but it also takes a level of commitment to the game. One need only look at Shaq vs. Duncan to see how two different players reacted to getting older and beaten up. But we should avoid factoring in accolades that are highly dependent on team. Winning titles and playoff success don’t do it for me. It's all about a player's stats and how he fared his era.
PATRICK: My criteria is reasonably subjective. I think Hall of Fame players are great players – not good or really good players – who played a long time. It’s actually hard to quantify what this means to the game, but I agree with Dre that is isn’t all about rings or a reputation for hitting clutch shots. Are we going to put Steve Kerr in the Hall of Fame? What about Ron Harper? And Will Purdue* has four rings!
*Side note: Purdue was really underrated, because he didn’t score. But Hall of Fame? Yeah, no.
I think a Hall of Fame player should have multiple All-NBA caliber seasons, and preferably at least one season where the numbers put them in the MVP conversation. And I’m defining this conversation as one led by advanced analytics people, not just conventional wisdom. That is, Ben Wallace would be a lock for the Hall since he had multiple MVP-caliber seasons, even though the “Yay Points” crowd would scream bloody murder about that evaluation. I can quantify these individual seasons with advanced metrics, but, of course, exactly how many seasons one must produce like this to be considered for the hall is a subjective matter.
ARTURO: In order to figure this one out, I asked the logical question: how many players are allowed to get in?. There are currently 164 inductees in the Naismith Hall of Fame, and the NBA is has been inducting players since 1959, for a total of 56 classes. The rate of induction is around five players per year. This lines up with the growth of the NBA and the game internationally, and will probably continue. That means that the best 170 eligible players should be in by next season, the best 200 eligible players by 2020, and the best 250 by 2028. So when looking at a player’s resume towards the Hall of Fame, we should look at those benchmark numbers to determine our answer.
If we jump back to 1974, the top 240 or so players from that time frame should be in the Hall.
So, Is Robert Horry a Hall of Famer?
DRE: So we have the Brocato Prime and longevity. Horry’s Brocato Prime has him producing 52.8 Wins with a WP48 of 0.189. As we normally note, the average player has a WP48 of 0.100. A "star" is typically around 0.200 or more. Horry was very good, but barely sustained star level during an average NBA career. Even if we restrict comparing his prime to his teammates he falls woefully short.
What about his longevity? Horry played a lot of seasons. But 2003 was the last season Horry topped 2000 minutes. Seeing as he'd end his career on a team that has been graced by David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili, it's hard to call playing well at thirty-two years old "longevity." Of course, the Lakers won their third NBA finals in 2003. Horry only put up a a WP48 of 0.139, good enough for 6.8 wins. That’s very similar to David West's performance this past season. Like David West, it was a good performance, but certainly not what we'd call great. He did play above average for the rest of his career, but as he didn't play many minutes and never hit star level again, he doesn’t pass this test.
Let’s be real. The ONLY reason Horry is in this discussion is because of his rings. And while he did help get those rings, let’s not fool ourselves. Pull Horry off the Rockets, Lakers, or Spurs, and they still have a shot at tons of wins and being title contenders. Pull off Hakeem, Clyde, Shaq, Kobe, Duncan, etc. (all Hall of Famers) and no way!
Horry was a good player. He got to play on some good teams. Is he Hall of Fame worthy? Only if the standards are pretty lax (see below).
PATRICK: So, like I said, multiple all-NBA caliber seasons. In WP48 terms, this is about 0.250+. And although Horry was a good player, he was never that good. Even in his peak years, he was All-Star material, not all-NBA material (again, by advanced analytics conventions -- he never had enough points to sniff the real all-star game, but that’s not what I mean). If he hadn’t played until he was about a hundred and four, we’d never be having this conversation (and he'd never have won those Spurs rings). He was a really good player. In some seasons even a borderline great player. But he doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall any more than Shane Battier will when that time comes.
And here is where I get to divert our attention back to something I said the other day: Horace Grant was a beast through his 8-year prime, never having the ups and downs that Horry had. He was the dominant big man that Chicago needed next to Pippen and Jordan, and if Nick Anderson could hit a fucking free throw or Shaq could have gotten motivated to play defense before Phil Jackson came along, he’d probably have 5 or 6 rings. And Horace is sadly not likely to make it in because it's now been hundreds of years since he retired. But if Robert Horry gets in the Hall, and Horace Grant doesn’t, we should be marching on Springfield.
ARTURO: I let the tale of the stats to guide me, rather than a gut feeling. We are geeks after all.
I did a quick analysis of all eligible players who aren't (yet) in the hall, and who have played more than 12000 minutes. Looking at Wins Produced and WP48 from the 1973-74 season on (with apologies to Zelmo Beatty!), I found over 40 players with better win numbers than Robert Horry! Heck, even if we restrict the numbers to players with 100+ Wins Produced in their career, there are twenty-seven names in front of Robert Horry!
So, Arturo gets the real verdict here. If we use the NBA's rate of acceptance for Hall of Fame players, then yes, Horry should be in. However, there's a very long line in front of him. At the current rate of three to five players a year, Horry has over a decade to wait. And that's also ignoring future Hall of Famers; active players like LeBron James and Chris Paul, for instance, have already cemented their place in the Hall (in our minds at least). So Horry deserves to be in the Hall, just not anytime soon.
Also, it's worth noting this, even though the voters will miss it: Dikembe Mutombo and Brent Barry absolutely deserve to be first ballot in 2015!