Sizing up the next possible Lakers Hall of Fame candidates
Credentials: Winter was a key architect of the triangle offense, which helped spur 11 NBA titles with Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. He had head coaching stints at with the Houston Rockets as well as at Marquette, Northwestern, Long Beach State and Kansas State, where he was named the UPI Coach of the Year in 1959. He had assistant coaching gigs with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers and was also the chairman for several years of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Chances of getting in: It's sad to say that the chances for the innovator of the triangle offense to get into the Hall of Fame are slim. But that's the reality. Winter was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in February and received the John Bunn Award from the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1998, which recognized him as a contributor to the game. When Winter received the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award prior to Game 2 of the 2010 NBA Finals, Winter's son, Chris, told reporters that Tex had received seven nominations to be inducted, though the limit is supposed to be five. When it was announced in April that Lakers owner Jerry Buss would be inducted in this year's class, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson shared that throughout his tenure with the Chicago Bulls he engaged in letter-writing campaign so that his long-time mentor would get his due. "It's like Tex says, he's outlived all his contemporaries," Jackson said of Winter, who had been an active consultant with the Lakers until suffering a stroke in April 2009. "It's a hard shot for him to get in."
Credentials: Bryant lived up to the hype and then some ever since impressing the Lower Merion (Pa.) high schooler impressed Jerry West during his pre-draft workout. After collecting his fifth NBA championship last season, he's brought continual debate on whether he'll surpass Michael Jordan as the league's all-time greatest player and whether he'll be considered the Lakers' greatest player of all time. There have been rough patches, particularly early in his career, with his scoring mentality and aggressive play disrupting team chemistry. But no one can match Bryant's work ethic, clutch shooting and love of the game. His other achievements include two Finals and one regular-season MVP, a gold medal from the Beijing Olympics, 11 All-NBA honors, nine NBA all-defensive honors, a 12th-place standing on the league's all-time scoring list and surpassing West as the Lakers' all-time leading scorer.
Chances of getting in: This isn't a matter of if, but when. Players must be fully retired for five years before being eligible for enshrinement, so the timing of this all depends on whenever Bryant hangs up his laces. Bryant recently signed a three-year contract extension that will keep him with the Lakers through the 2013-2014 season. If Bryant retires after that, that means the earliest time he'd get inducted would be in 2019.
Credentials: As one of the most physically imposing dominant big men of his time, Shaq's bullying size made him nearly impossible to stop in the lane. Teams addressed that issue with the Hack-a-Shaq strategy because of his poor free-throw shooting, and O'Neal didn't have the best conditioning/work habits. But no one can understate that he is one of the league's all-time elite centers, or discount his four championships and his gold medal from the Atlanta Olympics.
Chances of getting in: Laker fans may not like it now, but O'Neal's contributions to the Lakers' three-peat in 2000-2002 can't suddenly go away. He'll definitely get in. Given Shaq's tendency to trash every former coach and organization he's played for, I'm curious what his speech entails and what exactly he'll say about his time with the Lakers.
Credentials: Gasol has compiled equally impressive accolades in both the NBA and in international play. After the Lakers acquired him from Memphis in February 2008, he helped guide L.A. to three consecutive Finals appearances and two NBA championships. Gasol has since shed his "soft" tag by not backing away from physical contact, while still embracing his finesse game, mid-range abilities and basketball intelligence, three qualities that make him one of the top forwards in the game. Internationally, Gasol is considered one of the top Spanish players, helping FC Barcelona to the 2001 Spanish National Cup with MVP honors, winning gold at the 2006 FIBA World Championships and collecting silver in the Beijing Olympics.
Chances of getting in: Gasol's body of work at this current stage of his career is solid enough. But Gasol has plenty of years of basketball left entering his 10th season in the NBA and being under contract with the Lakers through the 2013-2014 season.
Credentials: Fisher is a strong catalyst for the Lakers' five championships since the 1999-2000 season, and his veteran presence has always helped keep the locker room intact. He has also played in 199 career playoff games, the fifth-highest total in NBA history, ranks second all-time in NBA Finals three-pointers made (43) and has the highest three-point field-goal percentage in NBA Finals history (42.6%). Fisher has had some memorable playoff moments. He hit the game-winner with .04 of a second left against San Antonio in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals. His three-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game and his three-pointer with 31.3 seconds left in overtime helped secure the Lakers victory against Orlando in Game 4 of the 2009 NBA Finals. Fisher's three-pointer with 28 seconds left gave the Lakers a one-point lead over Utah in Game 3 of the 2010 Western Conference semifinals. He scored five of the team's last 11 points in the Lakers' win over Phoenix in Game 5 of the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals. Fisher's 11 fourth-quarter points sealed the Lakers' Game 3 victory over the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals. And his three-pointer that tied the game at 64, Jackson said, "changed the complexity of the game" in the Lakers' Game 7 win over Boston in the NBA Finals. Nonetheless, Fisher has always been a role player, and has gone through stretches where his shooting and defense were inconsistent.
Chances of getting in: It's a tossup, considering Fisher's career is more defined by his presence than actual statistics. His clutch performances in the postseason should give him a boost.
Robert HorryCredentials: Big Shot Rob has seven NBA championships, including three with the Lakers, is one of only two players to have won a title with three different teams and is one of nine players to have won at least seven championships. Horry also holds plenty of playoff records, including being second all-time for three-pointers made in the postseason (237), first in the NBA Finals (53) and consecutive three-pointers made in the playoffs (seven). Horry made a game-clinching three-pointer in at least one game in four straight playoff series during the Lakers' three-peat from 2000 to 2002. Some of his big shots with the Lakers: making seven three-pointers in the Lakers' Game 2 loss to Utah in the 1997 Western Conference semifinals, making a corner three-pointer and four free throws in the final minute of the Lakers' Game 3 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals, a game-winning three-pointer with 10.2 seconds left in the Lakers' Game 3 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 2002 NBA playoffs, and a game-winning trey at the top of the key as time expired in the Lakers' Game 4 win over the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
Chances of getting in: If you measure it on playoff performances, Horry is a shoo-in. If you also equate his regular-season contributions, it's a little less clear. He averaged only seven points on 34.1% shooting during the regular season of his 17-year-career.
-- Mark Medina
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Top photo: Tex Winter. Credit: Associated Press.
Second photo: Kobe Bryant's induction into the Hall of Fame is a given. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Third photo: Shaq is a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. Credit: Mike Blake /Reuters
Fourth photo: Lakers forward Pau Gasol has plenty of accolades from the NBA and international play. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Photo: Lakers guard Derek Fisher may get into the Hall of Fame because of his playoff performances. Credit: Alex Gallardo/Los Angeles Times.
Photo: Robert Horry's three-point shot over the outstretched arm of Sacramento's Chris Webber in the final seconds of Game 4 evened the Western Conference finals in 2002. Credit: Associated Press