Jermaine O’Neal’s hall of fame chances are not that good. He had a great run in Indiana as an All-Star, but it took him years to build up to that point. And when his time in Indiana was over, he became a journeyman who ended his career without the stats, wins or accomplishments that would make him a Hall of Famer.
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Is Jermaine O’Neal a Hall of Fame Player?
Jermaine O’Neal had an 18-year NBA career as a center and power forward. You can see his career counting stats below:
There are no official criteria for making the basketball Hall of Fame. But observers generally agree that three main factors influence an NBA player’s chances of making it.
The first factor is winning. A player who wins multiple titles will often get consideration for the Hall that they may not have had they not won.
Robert Horry, a player with entirely pedestrian career statistics, is often mentioned as a potential Hall of Famer because he won seven titles.Embed from Getty Images
Another unofficial criteria is career accomplishments. A player who makes many All-Star and All-NBA teams or wins MVPs or Defensive Player of the Year Awards has a very strong case for induction – even if they never win.
No one questions the Round Mound of Rebound’s Hall of Fame bona fides even though Sir Charles never won an NBA title. That is because he had insane career accomplishments: Dream Teamer, 11x All-Star, and 11x All-NBA.
The last criteria is career statistics. A player who ends his career with incredible statistics is a shoo-in for the Hall.
In general, these Hall of Fame criteria operate on a sliding scale.
John Stockton never quite got a title because a guy named Michael Jordan stood in the way. But because Stockton retired as the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, his case for the Hall of Fame is beyond reproach.
None of these criteria operate entirely independently: you can’t just win five titles as a player like Steve Kerr did and think you will waltz into the Hall of Fame if you were a bit part on those title winning teams.
Meanwhile if you have nice counting stats, like Glenn Robinson who averaged more than 20 points per game, you aren’t automatically enshrined if your teams didn’t win and you had relatively meager career accomplishments.
We will look at Jermaine O’Neal’s case for the Hall of Fame using all three criteria below.
Jermaine O’Neal Hall of Fame Criteria: WinningEmbed from Getty Images
Jermaine O’Neal cannot make much of a case for the Hall of Fame by pointing to his wins.
It’s a good time to point out that O’Neal’s career had three distinct phases.
He started his career in Portland after being the 17th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft directly out of high school. He was not ready for the league, however.
In his four seasons in Portland, he never averaged more than 13 minutes or four points per game.
He then went on to play eight seasons in Indiana where he became a starter and an All-Star.
Next, O’Neal spent two seasons in Miami where he was a borderline starter/strong backup before ending his career with 4 seasons on three different teams as a veteran role player.
In none of those stops did O’Neal win a title. He never even made the NBA Finals. The Trailblazers lost twice in the Western Conference Finals while he was there, but he was truly a bit part on those teams.
In his prime, the Pacers made the Eastern Conference Finals once, in ‘03-’04, where they lost to the eventual-champion Detroit Pistons.
Then in ‘11-’12 he was a backup on an aging Boston team that lost to another title-winner: the Miami Heat.
In total, in an 18-year NBA career, O’Neal made four conference finals – and only two where he was a real contributor to the team.
Jermaine O’Neal does not have a case for the Hall of Fame based on winning.
Jermaine O’neal Hall of Fame Criteria: Career Awards & AccomplishmentsEmbed from Getty Images
Awards and accomplishments are O’Neal’s strongest argument for making the Hall of Fame.
O’Neal made six All-Star games in his eight seasons in Indiana. He is tied with Shawn Kemp, Amar’e Stoudemire and two others for 2nd place on the unfortunate list of players who made the most All-Star games but not the Hall of Fame.
He was an all star every year from 2002-2007.
During those years he averaged 18.6 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game. He peaked in ‘04-’05 when he averaged 24 points and 9 boards per game.
He also won the league’s Most Improved Player in 2002 when he went from being a solid first-year starter for the Pacers to making his first All-Star team.
This was O’Neal’s career peak as he was All-NBA 3rd team that season and the next for the Pacers and made 2nd Team All-NBA in 2004.
Six All-Star appearances and three All-NBA teams is a borderline Hall of Fame resume.
If it was paired with really good career statistics or two or three NBA titles, I think Jermaine O’Neal would have an incredibly strong case for the Hall of Fame. We already know the winning is not there. Let’s look next at his career stats.
Jermaine O’Neal Hall of Fame Criteria: Advanced Stats & Player Comparison
Here again are O’Neal’s career counting stats:
For comparison’s sake, here are Shawn Kemp’s career counting stats:
Finally, let’s look at an obvious Hall of Famer. Here are Tim Duncan’s stats:
I have chosen these three players to compare deliberately. All three players come from the same general era and played the same general position.
They were all ideally power forwards who could, and at times did, play center for their teams.
Duncan is an obvious, slam-dunk Hall of Famer while Shawn Kemp has yet to get the call from Springfield. Some say he belongs in, while I explain what is keeping him out here.
As you can see, Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental, leads in every category – except turnovers where O’Neal edges him slightly.
Now O’Neal was a good defensive player, but no one could claim he was better than Duncan, one of the greatest defensive players to ever live.
So O’Neal is not in Tim Duncan’s league, but that is not a surprise.
O’Neal was a better defender than Kemp, but the Reign Man’s counting stats are better in nearly every category than O’Neal. And Kemp is not in the Hall of Fame, so that is a mark against O’Neal’s case for the Hall based on stats.
Let’s look at some advanced stats to see what they show.
All three statistics below attempt to measure all that a player does while on the court to help their team win. None of these types of stats is perfect, but when you put together several, you can sometimes notice a trend.
|Player||PER||Win Shares||Box |
The first thing that stands out here is that Tim Duncan was an amazing basketball player!
Shawn Kemp and Jermaine O’Neal were really good too, but Tim Duncan’s career statistics make them look like me playing against a small child.
So Jermaine O’Neal was not better than Tim Duncan, but we knew that. The second thing you notice in this table is that Shawn Kemp was better than O’Neal according to these advanced stats as well.
As someone who watched basketball in this era, the stats agree with my observations.
Kemp was a dynamic force who paired with Gary Payton to lead his team to the finals before drug and alcohol abuse undermined his career. He, like O’Neal, was a six-time All-Star and 3x All-NBA selection.
And I think Kemp was just a bit better than Jermaine O’Neal. If Kemp is not a Hall of Famer, and at this point he isn’t, then neither is Jermaine O’Neal.
Jermaine O’Neal’s career statistics leave him just shy of Hall of Fame consideration.
Jermaine O’Neal Hall of Fame: Other Factors
Some players, like Ralph Sampson, make the Basketball Hall of Fame because of considerations beyond their NBA career.
It is not the NBA Hall of Fame but the Basketball Hall of Fame. So a player like Sampson got in because of his college exploits even though his NBA career was not quite at the Hall of Fame level.
Other players, like Alvin Robertson, have major off-the-court red flags that are going to keep them from being considered, especially as marginal-at-best cases.
Jermaine O’Neal has nothing in the universe of Alvin Robertson’s repeated domestic violence arrests working against him.
But he was involved in the infamous Malice at the Palace. O’Neal famously ran to defend Metta Sandiford-Artest (then Ron Artest) and threw a punch at the fan he was fighting.
Luckily, O’Neal missed and did not seriously injure the fan. He was suspended 25 games initially , which was reduced to 15 games on appeal. He pleaded no contest to assault charges and got a year’s probation, a fine and community service.
I don’t know how much that would impact voters today. The Malice at the Palace fit neatly into an “NBA thugs” narrative in 2004, but Jermaine O’Neal was no thug.
He got caught up in a fight that turned into a riot. We would all like to think we would be the calmer voices in a situation like that, but it’s hard to know how you’d react if you were involved in a sports fight that turned quickly into a riot when you were 25-years-old.
Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said “I felt like I was fighting for my life out there,” while Chuck Person, who was by then a 40-year-old assistant coach said he felt “trapped in a gladiator-type scene where the fans were the lions and we were just trying to escape with our lives. That’s how it felt. That there was no exit. That you had to fight your way out.”
Given that two mature adults felt like they were fighting for their life, it is a bit tough for me to blame a 25-year-old, who was already in the middle of a sports fight, for acting like he was fighting for his life.
I don’t condone what Jermaine O’Neal did but I don’t think it defines him in any way either. I have to believe most Hall of Fame voters see it similarly today.
I don’t believe the Malice at the Palace helps Jermaine O’Neal’s Hall of Fame chances, but I don’t think it hurts them too much either.
Summary: Jermaine O’Neal Hall of Fame
Jermaine O’Neal had a somewhat unique career in that he made six all-star teams but he is not a Hall of Famer. O’Neal started slowly in the NBA, had a strong 8 year prime in Indiana, and then became an NBA journeyman. That career trajectory left him without the career statistics, accomplishments or wins to make a strong Hall of Fame case.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Adapted from:
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.