Adrian Dantley can't understand why he hasn't gotten where he so desperately wants to go. Neither can some of the game's greats who have already made it there.
Intended destination: the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
"I think I should have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago," said Dantley, the prolific NBA scoring star whose uniform number will be retired by the Jazz on April 11. "But you just have to wait."
And wait, and wait and, in Dantley's case, wait a while longer.
The Washington, D.C., native who spent the majority of his seven-team, 15-year NBA career playing in Utah was first named as a Hall finalist in 2001. It happened again in 2002, '03, '05, '06 and this year as well. On Monday, when an announcement of the 2007 class of inductees is made in conjunction with NCAA Final Four festivities in Atlanta, the sixth time may be Dantley's charm.
The Rocky Mountain News in Denver, where Dantley is now an assistant coach for the Nuggets, cited an unidentified "source with knowledge of the selections" in reporting Saturday that the Hall's door has been closed yet again on the six-time NBA All-Star.
If that's indeed the case, a locker room full of Hall members will continue wondering why.
"A.D., I think, should have been in it a lot earlier," Earl "The Pearl" Monroe said in February after Dantley was named an '07 finalist during NBA All-Star Game Weekend at Las Vegas. "It's just unfortunate that he hasn't been elected earlier, but I'm very hopeful he does get his chance to shine."
"A.D. is, in my eyes, a Hall-of-Famer," George Gervin added. "I hope he becomes one, because he deserves it."
One of Dantley's biggest backers seems to be Bill Walton, who calls the exclusion "one of the most egregious errors in the history of basketball" and "a travesty" that he had hoped would be rectified this week.
"It is shocking that Adrian Dantley is not in the Hall of Fame already," Walton said, "and you really have to question the legitimacy of everything when someone like Adrian Dantley is not in."
Walton suggests one need only look at Dantley's resume to see the injustice, and remember that it's the Basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame.
"Adrian Dantley is a historical-level figure who changed the course of basketball at every level. High school. Notre Dame. Professional NBA basketball," Walton said. "You look at the numbers, you look at the success, you look at the way he absolutely dominated every level of basketball this guy is what the Hall of Fame is all about."
Adrian Delano Dantley was a scholastic All-America player playing for legendary prep coach Morgan Wooten at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland.
He played at Notre Dame from 1973-76, winning first-team All-America honors from The Sporting News for the 1974-75 (when he averaged 30.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game) and 1975-76 seasons. As a freshman in '73, Dantley helped the Irish beat UCLA and end the record 88-game win streak that belonged to a John Wooden-coached Bruins club that featured Walton at center. In '76, he was named the nation's outstanding men's college basketball player by the United States Basketball Writers Association winning an award now known as The Oscar Robertson Trophy, which this year went to University of Texas star Kevin Durant.
It was also in 1976 that Dantley was the leading scorer on the United States team that won Olympic gold at the Summer Games in Montreal.
He was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1977 and NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 1984 after missing 60 games the previous season with torn wrist ligaments but returning to lead the league in scoring with an average of 30.6 points per game.
Dantley's best years were with the Jazz from 1979-86, a span in which he averaged more than 30 points per game for four straight seasons (leading the league in '81 and '84) and made all six of his All-Star Game appearances.
He also led the league in free throws six times and was a career 54 percent shooter from the field.
Perhaps most mindboggling of all facts, though, is that Dantley scored 23,177 NBA points more than 15 years after his 1991 retirement, that still ranks No. 18 all-time and yet he's not among the 258 individuals, including players, coaches and contributors, already enshrined in the Hall.
"The guy led the league in scoring for, heaven's sakes, two years ... I mean, the guy was a scoring machine, and he had a great college career and a great pro career," Rick Barry said. "Go back and look at guys that are in there, and look at their overall career, and compare it to Adrian Dantley. How can he not be in?"
"If you ever had to play against Adrian Dantley, you knew right away he's one of the best players you've ever faced. (You) could not guard the guy. No one could," added Clyde Drexler, who like Walton, Barry and other Hall members were in Las Vegas for the February announcement of finalists. "He was consistent, he was durable, he was a winner. He had a great collegiate career, an incredible NBA career. There is no way he's not a Hall-of-Famer."
So why has Dantley been snubbed for so long?
"I don't know," said Dominique Wilkins, who was inducted into the Hall last year. "I wish I had an answer for you, but here's a guy whose credentials speak for itself."
Yet some pick apart Dantley's body of professional work, pointing out that he never played on an NBA title team and was traded from Detroit to Dallas five months before the Pistons won the league's championship in 1989; noting that he bounced from team to team, and that the Jazz made the playoffs in only three of his seven years in Utah; and suggesting that his scoring-oriented game was rather one-dimensional.
Barry, for one, doesn't buy it.
"What would it be? That he's not a defensive stopper? I mean, how many guys are? He was an offensive machine," said the eight-time All-Star whose NBA career briefly overlapped with Dantley's. "He wasn't a big guy, and yet he'd take you inside and embarrass you. He was a great player."
One theory is that personality may play a part in impacting the decisions made by a 24-person selection committee that includes rotating voters, some of whom are Hall members and 18 of whom must agree on enshrinement.
Sacramento Bee columnist and veteran NBA reporter Marty McNeal recently wrote that Dantley and another Hall snub Artis Gilmore, who actually scored more NBA points than Dantley "perhaps not so coincidentally ... were perceived to be aloof and did not always have the best relationship with the media."
So what, some Hall members say.
"I don't really buy into that that much," Monroe said. "I think what you do on the floor speaks for itself. It should always speak for itself."
"I would hope that people would not be influenced by something like that," Barry added.
Yet Barry knows many are.
"I was concerned, to be honest, when I was put up (for selection)," he said. "And one of the things I did was thank the people who put me in for not taking all of the nonsense that was written about me and said about me, and just evaluated me based on my performance as a basketball player. Because that's what this is about.
"It's not are you a good person off the floor, do you give good interviews? I mean, what the heck does that have to do with it? Nothing," Barry added. "It has to do with your skill and your talent as a basketball player, and hopefully people will be able to put any of those prejudices that they have aside."1 comment on this story
Dantley whose fellow '07 finalists include former NBA star Chris Mullin, NBA coach Phil Jackson (who according to a report in Saturday's Los Angeles Times has been elected this year), college coaches Roy Williams and Eddie Sutton, and popular broadcaster Dick Vitale certainly hopes so, if that indeed is the case.
"They've got different people you've got secret ballots and votes and whatever (are) their reasons for voting or for not voting, you don't know," he said.
But Dantley sure would love to.
"I mean, nobody (knows)," he said."You hear all the time ... 'How come this person didn't get in?' and why this person did get in," Dantley added, "but I guess there are so many people every year, it's very difficult to get people in there who people think should be in there."