Four major Baltimore sports figures — former Maryland men’s basketball coach Lefty Driesell, former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina and former Ravens Ray Lewis and Ed Reed — have been inducted to their respective sports’ Halls of Fame during the past year.
But with those four inducted, there’s some doubt among local fans as to when we might see another significant Baltimore athlete inducted into a Hall of Fame. So looking primarily at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Pro Football Hall of Fame and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (with one exception you’ll understand), we look at “The 15 Next Baltimore Hall of Fame Candidates.”
For the purposes of this exercise, I only considered athletes who are either from here or played here for three or more years.
1. NBA Forward Carmelo Anthony (Towson Catholic)
As polarizing a player as Anthony has been, his spot in Springfield, Mass., isn’t remotely up for debate. He’s a top-20 scorer in NBA history, a three-time gold medalist (and one of the most legendary USA Basketball players of all time) and a 10-time All-Star. He also led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship. His spot is as certain as his disinterest in being a team’s second option.
2. Former Maryland Forward Len Bias
While some players have made the Naismith Hall of Fame based largely on their collegiate accomplishments (see Ralph Sampson), none have done so without ever playing in the NBA at all. Bias tragically never had the opportunity, so there’s no real chance he could make it to Springfield. That said, the two-time All-American and two-time ACC Player of the Year’s absence from the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame is totally insane and should be corrected immediately.
3. Former NBA Guard Muggsy Bogues (Dunbar)
Some basketball fans were confused when Bogues’ name showed up on the Naismith Hall of Fame ballot in recent years. But his candidacy is more legitimate than you might realize. Did you know that the top two, four of the top five (and six of the top 10) assist-to-turnover seasons in NBA history belong to the diminutive Bogues? That statistic isn’t the be-all, end-all in determining the best passers (particularly considering not all turnovers are created equally), but this is still staggering. Combine that with his legendary career with the Poets and at Wake Forest and the tacit understanding that his candidacy is based at least in part on his value as a player when juxtaposed with his height (5-foot-3) and there’s a real argument here.
4. Former Ravens Wide Receivers Anquan Boldin And Steve Smith Sr.
Smith is eighth and Boldin 14th in NFL history in receiving yards. All of the other eligible players in the top 13 are inducted except, strangely, for Isaac Bruce. Boldin is ninth and Smith 12th in career receptions. Many pundits would consider these guys (or at least one of them) as more of “Hall of Very Good,” but both are very much worthy of consideration to reach Canton, Ohio, in the coming years.
5. Former Baltimore Colts Linebacker Mike Curtis
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will expand the class of 2020 to include 10 senior candidates as part of the celebration of the NFL’s 100th season. That could be very good news for “The Mad Dog,” the only player in NFL history to ever be named an All-Pro at both outside and inside linebacker.
6. Former Orioles Infielder Manny Machado
He still needs to accomplish a bit more in order to clinch his spot, but with more than 1,000 hits and 200 home runs while being one of the best defenders in history at just the age of 27, Machado appears to be well on his way to immortality. The question of which hat he’ll wear might prove to be just as difficult as it was for Mussina.
7. WNBA Forward Angel McCoughtry (St. Frances)
Her career isn’t over and she’s already been a six-time All-WNBA performer, a two-time scoring champ and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, as well as a champion in both the Turkish and Lebanese leagues. There should be little debate about her worthiness for Springfield.
8. Former Ravens Owner Art Modell
There was some hope among Ravens fans when the Hall of Fame decided to split contributors from other candidates for consideration in 2014 that it could perhaps help Modell’s chances of making it to Canton after twice falling short as a finalist. Sadly, that hasn’t panned out yet and there’s doubt among voters that it ever will. There are rumors that some voters have made it their personal crusade to block Modell from induction for moving the Browns, ignoring his incredible impact both in Baltimore and throughout the league.
9. Former Ravens Defensive Tackle Haloti Ngata
It has been excruciatingly difficult for modern defensive tackles to find their way to Canton. There’s Warren Sapp, the late Cortez Kennedy and that’s about it. Without gaudy numbers to back them up, they’ve just become a forgotten group to the Hall of Fame. Ngata’s incredible career included five All-Pro nods and a Super Bowl XLVII title, but sadly, it feels like it won’t be enough for him to gain induction.
10. Former Orioles First Baseman Rafael Palmeiro And Pitcher Curt Schilling
There are obvious reasons why these two have yet to reach Cooperstown, N.Y. Considering that players who were merely assumed to have used performance-enhancing drugs have been kept out, Palmeiro’s failed test in 2005 (worse considering his infamous finger wag in front of Congress) was always going to doom his chances. Oddly, Hall voters seem to be softening a bit. Longtime Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who reportedly failed an anonymous test in 2003, is expected by many to be elected. Palmeiro’s circumstances might forever make him too toxic, but if PED users are eventually allowed in, it’s going to be weird to exclude one of only five members of the 3,000-hit, 500-home run club.
Schilling was never a “slam dunk” candidate necessarily, but his extremist views have badly hurt him with voters. His postseason dominance makes him worthy if a voter considers his baseball accomplishments alone.
11. Former Mount St. Mary’s Coach Jim Phelan
Among those who have coached at the Division I level, current Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis is the only coach with more wins than Phelan to not be enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame. Phelan built The Mount into a Division II powerhouse before the school made the jump to Division I in 1988, finishing his career with a total of 830 wins across divisions before being inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. Perhaps the voters in Springfield just don’t like bowties?
12. Former Ravens Linebacker Terrell Suggs
If “T-Sizzle” records just 9.5 sacks this season, he’ll move into sixth all time in NFL history. He’s the next “slam dunk” Baltimore athlete to go to a hall of fame, for sure.
13. Ravens Kicker Justin Tucker
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is widely expected to be the third true placekicker (joining Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen) to reach Canton. After that, Tucker has a genuine chance to crack the conversation. He’s the most accurate kicker in NFL history as of today but has played only seven seasons. If he can continue on even a similar pace for a few more years, it would be hard to argue against him.
14. Former NBA Forward Buck Williams (Maryland)
The following is the list of all Naismith Hall of Fame-eligible players who finished their NBA career with at least 16,000 points and 13,000 rebounds who have not been inducted:
1. Buck Williams
2. No other players
Williams’ career was overshadowed by playing in an era of dominant power forwards and playing most of his first decade with the woeful New Jersey Nets. Sadly, it will probably prevent him from ever reaching Springfield, but he’s a more than worthy candidate.
15. Ravens Offensive Lineman Marshal Yanda
Much like defensive tackles, guards have had a brutal time when it comes to getting to Canton. Larry Allen and Will Shields are the only guards whose careers began after 1985 to be inducted so far. But the seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro has certainly put himself in a position to have a genuine chance at joining that group in the future.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Issue 256: August 2019