Is Chris Webber a Hall of Famer?

The Keltner List is a series of subjective questions formulated by famed sabermetrician Bill James used to help assess whether or not a player deserves to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Although the system was designed to evaluate baseball players, with a few minor tweaks it can also be used to assess the Hall-worthiness of basketball players. Today — in what I hope will become a regular feature on Statitudes — I will assess the Hall of Fame chances of Chris Webber, who will appear on the ballot for the first time in 2014.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in basketball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in basketball?

Webber never finished higher than fourth in the MVP voting, and he only had one All-NBA First Team selection, so the answers are clearly no and no.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Yes, Webber was the best player on the Washington Bullets/Wizards in 1996-97 and 1997-98, and he was also the best player on the Sacramento Kings from 1998-99 to 2000-02.

3. Was he the best player in basketball at his position?

No, he wasn’t. Webber’s best seasons coincided with some of Tim Duncan best seasons, and Duncan was pretty clearly regarded as the best power forward in the NBA, not to mention the fact that Karl Malone was still a 20/10 threat on a nightly basis in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of NBA Finals or Conference Finals?

Not really. None of Webber’s teams advanced to the NBA Finals, although he did play on two conference finalists, the 2001-02 Kings and the 2006-07 Pistons. Webber had a starring role with the Kings, averaging 24.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game against the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, but he was more of a supporting player with the Pistons.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Yes. Webber’s last All-Star selection came in 2002-03, when he was 29 years old, but he managed to stick around for five more seasons. He played on four different teams in that span, but he started all but two games that he appeared in and averaged 34 minutes per game.

6. Is he the very best (eligible) basketball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

No, there are several players I would put ahead of him, among them Kevin Johnson, Sidney Moncrief, and Alonzo Mourning.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

It depends how you look at it.

Webber is one of just five players in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for his career (minimum 400 games played):

Chris Webber 20.7 9.8 4.2
Wilt Chamberlain 30.1 22.9 4.4
Larry Bird 24.3 10.0 6.3
Elgin Baylor 27.4 13.5 4.3
Billy Cunningham 20.8 10.1 4.0

The other four players, as you may already know, are in the Hall of Fame. But there are two things that should be noted:

  1. Webber is close to the arbitrary cutoffs in all three categories.
  2. Webber clearly doesn’t belong in a group with Chamberlain, Bird, and Baylor.

For example, Brad Daugherty finished his career with averages of 19.0/9.5/3.7. Although he misses the cut in both points and assists, Daugherty is a much closer match to Webber than Chamberlain and Bird are.

Looking at the quality and shape of Webber’s career as measured by win shares, he is comparable to several very good players — Lou Hudson, Ben Wallace, and Lamar Odom, to name three — but just one Hall of Famer (James Worthy).

8. Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Webber’s Hall of Fame probability on is 0.746, which currently puts him 83rd all time among players with at least 400 games played. There are certainly players in the Hall of Fame with lesser resumes.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Yes, there is. Webber was plagued by injuries throughout his career. In his 15 years in the NBA, Webber played in just 831 out of a possible 1,198 regular season games. Or to put it another way, Webber sat out almost four and a half seasons worth of games over the course of his career. Because of this, Webber missed out on reaching career milestones such as 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

I think there is a case to be made that Webber is the best eligible power forward who is not in the Hall of Fame, but my choice would be Larry Nance. Nance’s career per game averages of 17.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists fall short of Webber’s, but Nance was:

  • more durable (Webber’s career high in games played was 76, a mark that Nance surpassed six times),
  • a much more efficient scorer (Nance’s career true shooting percentage was .586 compared to .513 for Webber), and
  • a better defensive player (Nance was named to the All-Defensive team three times, an honor that Webber never received).

Webber at his peak was probably a better player than Nance, but Webber missed so many games due to injury that I would prefer a player like Nance.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Webber finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting for five straight seasons (1998-99 to 2002-03) but never won the award. His only top five finish came in 2000-01, when he finished fourth.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Webber was selected to five All-Star games, playing in four of them (he sat out the 2003 game due to injury). There are quite a few players with five or more All-Star selections who have not made the Hall of Fame.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win an NBA title?

Likely? No. Possible? Yes. Webber was the best player on the 2001-02 Kings team that lost to the Lakers in seven games in the Western Conference finals. Had the Kings advanced to the NBA Finals, they would have been heavy favorites over the New Jersey Nets.

14. What impact did the player have on basketball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way? Was his college and/or international career especially noteworthy?

Webber was the leader of the University of Michigan’s “Fab Five”, believed by many to be the best recruiting class of all time. The “Fab Five” had a big impact on the court — Michigan advanced to consecutive NCAA finals in Webber’s two seasons there — but thanks to their their baggy shorts, blacks socks, and black shoes they had an even greater impact on the game’s culture. Unfortunately for Webber, the Wolverines lost both of those finals, with Webber infamously calling a timeout that his team did not have in the waning moments of the 1993 championship game with his team in possession of the ball and down by two.

The Verdict

I think the answer to the question “Is Chris Webber a Hall of Famer?” depends on whether you are an advocate of a “big Hall” (i.e., less restrictive criteria) or a “small Hall” (i.e., more restrictive criteria). I tend to lean toward the latter, and given that I don’t have a strong feeling that Webber is a Hall of Famer — nor do I have a strong feeling that he isn’t — I would have to pass on him at this time. That said, I leave open the possibility that someone, somewhere can convince me that he is.

20 thoughts on “Is Chris Webber a Hall of Famer?

  1. Overall, a very good assessment of Chris Webber’s NBA legacy. I agree he’s not now best candidate available for HOF, especially given 1st year of eligibility. I think he deserves consideration in future, especially if it’s possible election into HOF in a year with weak ‘competition’. What’s ironic to me is I genuinely like him as a person- articulate, witty, good sense of humor (including about himself- his basketball talents/weaknesses)- all-in-all very personable, relates well to all types of NBA fans; that said, none of those characteristics apply as HOF criteria.

    1. Overall, the assessment was crap. But the biggest turd was trying to slip Larry Nance past us. No disrespect to Larry Nance. He was a really good player. But not only was Larry Nance NOT a better defender than Webber, but he just isn’t even in the same league.

      Webber finished in the top 10 in MVP voting 5 times, despite being hugely disliked by the voters. He was the hands down MVP in 2000-2001, when he led his team to 61 wins while averaging 27.1 points, 11.1 boards, 4.2 dimes, 1.3 swipes and 1.7 blocks (better numbers than Garnett put up in his MVP campaign, and just flat out better than most MVP campaigns), and yet only finished 4th in voting. Larry Nance!? How many MVP votes does he have? One from his mother?


      No, this writer doesn’t have any strong feelings about whether Webber belongs in the Hall or not. He just loathes Chris Webber’s guts.

      1. Rich you a true student of the game.Everything mentioned was very accurate.Not to mention the fact every team he went to immediately became relevant.Before he was drafted by GS the team was an after thought,the bullets were barely apart of the association and Sacramento ???? Don’t get me started.If it not had been for a “rogue” paid off referee they wud have destroyed the New Jersey Nets for the Chip.C Webb is definitely a Hall Of Famer

  2. Very fair and even-handed assessment of Webber’s career. I would just add two additional points: a) Webber was never really better than the fourth best power forward in the game during most of his career as you left out Kevin Garnett, who’s a certain first ballot Hall of Famer b) you also failed to mention the “character” issues such as him talking under the table payments in HS and famously, in college (and remember, he didn’t NEED to do this as he came from a good middle class family). He was also hardly a stand up guy in the NBA as he served one drug suspension and ruined a good team by forcing a trade from Hall of Famer Don Nelson while at Golden State. It can be argued that he also ruined the best Kings team in history by forcing himself back into the starting lineup after coming off a major injury. The Kings had the best record in basketball WITHOUT him that year, and fell apart once he came back.

    As you can see, I’m not a strong supporter of his HOF case as I’ve always viewed him as an under-achiever of somewhat questionable character.

    1. Jim Thompson, you made some excellent points in a number of areas about the ‘1990s’ Chris Webber that I had forgotten about his ‘legacy’. One of them is truly ironic regarding his HOF case: had he stayed with/under GSW/Don Nelson (at that time probably the best coach for player’s with Webber-type abilities/talents), I think he easily could have developed into a definite HOF 1st year choice.

  3. Remember that the 2001-02 Kings were a Horry 3 and a badly refereed game away from beating the Lakers that year. Since the Lakers easily beat the Nets in that year’s Finals, it’s easy to assume the Kings likely would’ve done the same. As Webber was definitely the best player on the team, the answer to the question “If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win an NBA title?” isn’t just probably yes, but definitely yes.

  4. I’m naturally was happy to see that Webber did NOT make the HOF in his first year of eligibility. The author of this article made a very good case, I think, for Larry Nance being in the HOF BEFORE Webber. I will give Webber some credit as an announcer though, as he’s articulate and intelligent in that role, and MUCH better than a lot of former players (and orders of magnitude better than Shaq).

    1. Such BS. Karl Malone retired during Webber’s prime, so Webber was absolutely, not only a top 3 power forward (along with Garnett and Duncan) but seeing as he won 1rst team all-NBA, and was actually in his prime and dominating the world while Duncan was still somewhat overlooked as the “Big Fundamental” and Garnett hadn’t fully established his dominance yet, Webber was firmly in the conversation for best power forward in the league. WITH DUNCAN AND GARNETT!

      So you are going to penalize him for playing in a golden age of power forwards? And incidentally, Duncan got to be a center when it suited the masses, or a power forward, depending on which made him more eligible for the all-star game. Chris Webber, again incidentally, started in the all-star game, in the same conference as Duncan and Garnett. Doesn’t sound like their superiority was as cut and dried as you believe, or as it looks now, years after Webber had been a force.

      You are participating in revisionist history. Due to Duncan’s and Garnett’s now legendary status, and the fact that they are still playing long after Webber’s wheels blew out, you’re placing them above him when they were actually going head to head — when it mattered. From a historical perspective, Duncan and Garnett have all the ammo. They both have herculean durability, a major component to legend status — and rings, the other major component. But when Webber averaged 27/11 while carrying his team to 61 wins, and a heart breaking 1 free throw shy of a Championship, nobody but Spurs and Wolves fans were claiming Duncan and Garnett were better.

      But here’s where you are right, but dreadfully misdirected. Webber’s “character” issues have to be taken into consideration. But they already have. They cost him several all-star appearances (injuries cost him several more) and they cost him an MVP. People so hated Chris Webber that they gave it to Allen Iverson (a man who’d already been shunned for his own character issues). And then to add insult to injury, he didn’t even finish 2nd in voting.

      Here’s another criminally overlooked fact. Chris Webber played 5 straight seasons with a Dfrtg under 98. No player in history has ever accomplished anything close to that and been called anything other than a great defender. People don’t like Webber, for various reasons, and that is the ONLY reason he’s not a lock for the HOF. You can’t put Ralph Sampson and Drazen Petrovic in the Hall, and then turn around and call small hall. In any universe, Chris Webber is a top 100 player all-time. He belongs in the Hall.

  5. I don’t think this was a good assessment. You deride his career for all of the games missed to injury, but overlook Mourning’s clear fall from all star status after his medical issues. Mourning’s playoff numbers weren’t any better than his regular season numbers, and Webber is closer to milestones than him. If he never had medical issues, he wouldn’t be in the Hall.

    You included Webber with Chamberlain and Baylor, 2 players who played in an era of limited competition. 22 rebounds per game? Seriously? Chamberlain and Baylor’s numbers should only be compared to players who played in their era. So basically, it’s Webber, Bird, and Cunningham.

    All Star selection should have nothing to do with credentials. Yao Ming has 8 All Star selections, and he only really deserved 4 of them; fans vote in players for popularity, coaches vote in players for reputation.

    Larry Nance was often the third best player on his team. How many Hall of Famers not on the Celtics or Lakers are in the Hall being the third best players on their teams? Not too many.

    Webber probably won’t make the Hall, but it has less to do with on-court performance and more with off-court issues and a secret voting process. If Alonzo Mourning, Reggie Miller, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin are Hall of Famers, Chris Webber’s a Hall of Famer. Mullin is the most egregious of those selections.

    1. Larry Nance better that Chris Webber? In what universe? This writer reached on about 5 of his criteria, but Nance was the worst. Nance the better defender? That’s funny, because Webber’s career Dfrtg is 101 and Nance’s is 104. Chris Webber finished with a Dfrtg under 98 five times. Nance only got under 100 once.

      Trivia question? What player ever, in NBA history, had a 96 defensive rating and got overlooked as a mediocre defender? Some poor fool named Chris Webber, that’s who. 9 times out of 10, a 96 Dfrtg will win you DPOY.

      Webber’s biggest crime? He was a pot head, and had bad ankles and knees. But he was a baller, and a top 10 all-time power forward. Period. And Larry Nance’s great grand daddy is rolling over in his grave in embarrassment that someone claimed his grandson was better than Chris Webber.

  6. I agree if Chris Mullin and Sarrunis made it in, then Webber definately should. Sarrunis made it in because he was one of the best international players in the NBA while he played. Not even the 3rd best player on Golden State. And Chris mullin definately had lots of off court problems like Webber and made it in

  7. It’s the Basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame.

    Pending on how you feel about his actions during the whole UM/Ed Martin scandal, you probably don’t think he belongs, but he was the unquestioned best player on those Michigan teams that made back to back title games as freshman and sophmores.

    In the NBA, he goes to Golden State, wins Rookie of the Year and they make the playoffs that season. He gets traded to Washington and they make the playoffs in 1997 for the first time since 1988 and then he got traded to Sacramento and turned them into a consistent playoff team for six straight seasons when the Kings had only made the playoffs twice in 13 seasons in Sacramento, that has to count for something IMO.

  8. To be fair about Webber wanting out of GS after 1994, Nelson was playing him out of position at Center and wouldn’t budge. Nelson had been dying to get a center over his entire coaching career and he saw Webber as the player who would get him to that end. Webber wasn’t a center and knew it. I don’t think Webber handled the situation well, but neither did Nelson.

    Orlando would have been the perfect landing spot for Webber, it’s a shame both the Magic and Warriors blew it by making that trade.

  9. Two points: 1) Chris Webber was also the best player on the Warriors in his rookie season. 2) The Sacramento Kings were flat out robbed in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. These facts tend to bolster C Webb’s HOF case. It is unfortunate that he came into the league as an immature young man and could not accept Don Nelson’s coaching.

    He is a great broadcaster, which will likely boost him into the Hall. As is noted in the article injuries diminished his career. One has to wonder if coming into the NBA as a 20 year old was too much for his body to handle.

  10. While admittedly not a sure-fire, no-brainer, first ballot hall of famer, Chris Webber definitely deserves induction.

    The sheer impact of the “Fab Five” (good, bad or otherwise), the fact a starting five comprised of freshman (exclusively) advanced to the NCAA championship game and the fact a staring five comprised of sophomores (exclusively) advanced to the NCAA championship game. Critics hold those losses against the “Fab Five”, as if squads comprised of freshman and sophomores routinely advanced that far back then Or even today.

    On top of that, Webber was the best player on those teams, the first freshman to earn All Final-4 honors since Bill Walton (which he replicated his sophomore year) and the first sophomore since Magic Johnson to be drafted # 1 overall, by the NBA.

    He comes to the NBA, wins “Rookie of the Year” and leads Golden State to the playoffs for the first time in 2 seasons. He’s traded to Washington and eventually leads the Bullets to the playoffs for the first time in 9 seasons. Traded to Sacramento and leads the Kings to the playoffs for the first time in 3-4 seasons (second time in 13 seasons, no less).

    Chris Webber won. Not a championship level, but he Won. And if not for the Shaq-Kobe era Lakers, Webber almost assuredly would have acquired at least one championship.

    As is, his resume is Just impressive enough, with stats to back it up.

    Larry Nance? Really?! : )

  11. Once again Webber is up for the HOF (and he made the finals this year (2017) in a weak class). All the arguments made against him being a HOF’er still hold, IMNSHO. He made only ONE first-team all NBA, 3 second teams, and one third team. No one who ever WATCHED the nba at the time would say he was a better power forward than Malone, Duncan, or Garnett (who were all in the same conference!). He NEVER made an all nba defensive team and was definitely not a great defender (and I saw all his best seasons first-hand in Sacramento). He NEVER wanted the big shot in big games.
    As to the argument that he was not a center and thus was being played out of position by Nelson at Golden State? that’s absurd, as no rookie with an ego bigger than the all outdoors gets the nod over a HOF coach! I’d agree that center was perhaps his BEST position, as he was a good defensive rebounder, a good passer, could hit from the elbow (but not a lot further) and beat most centers down the court, easily. He wasn’t a great center for the same reasons he wasn’t a great power forward: he never developed even a half decent low post game. he could dunk and that was about it (he had an ugly jump hook that was unreliable and he could only shoot it right handed).
    The argument that he has already been penalized for the obvious character issues is also absurd (character issues that came to light much after HIS nba career will prevent a better player, Kevin Johnson, from EVER making the HOF). Character issues NEVER go away, unless maybe sometime he’s found jumping across a burning roof with someone ELSE’s kids under his arms……
    though it has no relevance to his HOF chances, he would actually not rank as well in TODAY’s NBA as he did playing against his HOF competition at power forward back in the day. He simply didn’t do any one thing superbly, and there are much better shooters AND athletes at his position today.

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