Monday, March 8, 2010

Hall of Fame Projector Test: Looking at HOF Players

Ever since I discovered's Hall of Fame Probability calculation metric, I've been very interested in building something similar for the WNBA. However, there was a collection of stats that I didn't have - the MVP award shares, which are explained here. After pilight was kind enough to give me his information, I began building the metric in earnest.

The calculations are now complete. The data might need a test for accuracy, but we can now put a Hall of Fame probability number on every player to play in the ABL and the WNBA, based solely on their pro career. In short, we can say how much their professional ABL/WNBA career supports their inclusion into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

The problem is that for NBA players, Hall of Fame induction is well established - NBA players are inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame when they retire. This is supposed to be an all-inclusive list including international players and female candidates. Unfortunately, female players weren't inducted into the Naismith HOF until 1992, with the induction of Lusia Harris-Stewart. The last time a woman who was a player was inducted was 2005, with the addition of Hortência Marcari. Let's just say that the Naismith HOF is overwhelmingly male and leave it at that.

Therefore, the women have their own club. The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame was established in 1999, opening in Knoxville, Tennessee. The club is open to both genders, but as the focus of the game is women's basketball an overwhelming majority of inductees are women.

Furthermore, unlike Cooperstown, both the NHOF and the WBHOF consider the totality of a player's accomplishments - college, professional and international. However, the HOF metric above only considers a player's pro status. Even with the emphasis on women, the ABL/WNBA haven't been around enough for players to be inducted solely on the strength of their pro career.

There have only been a few players on the list of inductees who have spent any time in the ABL or the WNBA (unfortunately, we have no WBL stats to look at or we could consider Anne Meyers and Carol Blazejowski, and Machine Gun Molly Bolin). I therefore looked at each WBHOF player that had any time in the two pro leagues of the late 20th century and calculated if they could have gotten into the WBHOF on their ABL/WNBA career alone. Hopefully, your implicit numbers will agree with my explicit ones.

Nancy Lieberman: (0%) She has an armada of accomplishments, but by the time the WNBA started, she was ready for retirement. If she hadn't played a minute of WNBA ball she'd be a Hall of Famer Fer Sure.

Daedra Charles: (0%) Yes, she was a great player for the University of Tennessee and was one of only five Lady Vols to have her number retired. She's there, however, strictly on the strength of her college career and the fact that the WBHOF is in Knoxville. She basically ate her way out of the WNBA; she was at her peak age of 28 in 1997 but her first WNBA season was her last.

Lynette Woodard: (0%) She's a Nancy Lieberman case: superannuated player with a massive record of accomplishments comes into the WNBA for one or two twilight seasons.

Rebecca Lobo: (0%) Lobo had a bevy of accomplishments in college, but her pro career was a different story. She had two real seasons in the W before blowing out her knee and becoming the shadow of the player she used to be. Had a ring from the first All-Star game in 1999 and a handful of MVP votes were tossed her way in 1997. You could argue that she deserves to be there for being the public face of the WNBA.

Janice Braxton: (2%) Braxton had some okay stats but not much press attention (few MVP votes) or fan love (no All-Star Games) in her pro career. Like Lieberman and Woodard, she would have probably had a much better career if she didn't have to start it at age 35. I think if there had been a WNBA in 1985, Braxton would have been fantastic.

Andrea Lloyd-Curry: (3%) Andrea Lloyd-Curry won championships at every level, but her pro championships came in the ABL and not the WNBA. Lloyd-Curry was a member of the Columbus Quest, where she won two ABL championships. She came into the WNBA in 1999 with the Lynx, where her first year was either a sign of an age-related decline or just an adjustment issue. Her 1999 Lynx season was her final one.

Suzie McConnell Serio: (4%) Her brief pro career was bracketed by a successful college career and a Coach of the Year award in 2004. I'd say that McConnell Serio's height has as much to do with her HOF status as anything else - Sports lllustrated named her the best 5-4 basketball player, male or female, at one time.

Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil: (8%) We're now entering the "outside cases" for Hall of Fame nomination, but we're not quite there yet. Her numbers were borderline in the pro game (two and a bump years in the ABL, one in the W). Was an All-Star one time, in the inaugural 1996-97 ABL season. She had just passed 28 when she was an ABL player. She's probably in the HOF for her international career, where she got four gold medals for the US in various competitions, and for being a freshman on an undefeated 1986 championship Texas team.

Michele Timms: (9%) She was an All-Star in that first WNBA 1999 All-Star game, along with Lobo. She was the first Australian woman to play professional basketball overseas. Timms played for the Mercury for four years and was the first Mercury player and second WNBA player to have her number retired. Timms was another late starter, playing her first WNBA season at 32. I'd say that "first Australian pro player" has a lot to do with Timms being in the HOF.

Teresa Weatherspoon: (17%) Weatherspoon is a strange case. She could certainly dish the ball, but she just couldn't score with it. Really, her numbers aren't that good. The problem is that if you claim at T-Spoon really wasn't all that, you open up the whole issue of statistics vs. experience - there is a whole school of thought out there that claims that the stats mean nothing compared to what you see with your own eyes and the various "intangibles" a player brings and several Liberty fans who will go to the mattresses to defend T-Spoon.

Since I never saw Weatherspoon play, all I have are statistics. I wouldn't put anyone in the HOF who averages about five points a game no matter how many dimes they throw. (If she's a great defensive player, was she really that great?) However, T-Spoon was certainly a fan favorite, getting to the WNBA All-Star game five times. Furthermore, given the late start of her pro career (age 31), her assist numbers and All-Star game numbers probably would have been higher if there had been a pro league when she graduated - but would she have been an icon if she played for the Starzz?

Katrina McClain: (30%) She's in the HOF for collecting all sorts of medals for various incarnations of the United States women's basketball team. Her Wikipedia entry has her as a 1997-1998 All-Star for the American Basketball League. She was around 32 years old, and she had a very good lone pro season - it makes you wonder what we might have seen if she hung around. She was suspended by the ABL in November 1998 for refusing to report to the Chicago Condors; one month later the league was bankrupt.

Jennifer Azzi: (40%) Azzi played in both the ABL and the WNBA. She was a two-time All-Star for the ABL, a league she helped found. Naismith winner, Wade Trophy winner, Olympic gold medalist. Once again, we only got a very small piece of a career; even so that piece was impressive.

Jennifer Gillom: (55%) The first person on the list who could legitimately get into the HOF solely on their pro career since 1997. She was a full-time starter for the Phoenix Mercury for six years, averaging 13.4 points per game. Unfortunately, her career ended in 2003; like so many others on this list she started her pro game in her 30s.

Teresa Edwards: (99%) Oh yeah, you definitely could not overlook Edwards's pro career. But put that on the back burner for a while. She earned four Olympic gold medals for playing basketball. She was the first basketball player of any gender in the US to play in five different Olympic games. On her Olympic career alone she should be a Hall of Famer.

An under-six-footer, Edwards was a two-time All Star in the ABL. Over her career in both leagues, Edwards scored about 14.5 ppg.

Cynthia Cooper: (>99%) Are we even required to discuss it?

COMING SOON: The current WNBA players who are "Hall of Famers Fer Sure".


Rebecca said...

The last time was in 2005? Coach Stringer would like a word with you. And if Coach Stringer would like a word with you, save a few hours out of your day. I think that was the last time a female player was inducted.

pilight said...

Spoon would have been an icon wherever she played. On one hand, numbers don't do her justice. On the other, her numbers reflect the difference between the W of the 1990's and the league today. A player with Spoon's numbers probably wouldn't be a starter, let alone an All Star, today. Noelle Quinn is probably the closest match, number-wise, to Spoon and you see how she's regarded.

pt said...

Rebecca, the correction has been made because I don't want C. Viv calling me at 3 am in the morning and having me do wind sprints.

pilight, I think T-Spoon suffers a bit due to the metric. I think the metric has a built-in goofball bias - since most people are only going to be looking at PPG/RPG/APG it weights those heavily. Since most people are only going to be looking at All-Star selections, it weights those, too. The HOF probability machine is a strict "traditional stats" machine.