The entire starting frontcourt from Indiana’s 1972 and 1973 ABA championship teams has been enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame, now that former ABA MVP George McGinnis finally joined his legendary teammates Roger Brown and Mel Daniels on Friday evening.
“How many teams can say that?” Slick Leonard boasted to the Indy Star’s Zak Keefer in April, shortly after the election announcement was made.
Answer: Very few.
For instance, Julius Irving and rookie-sophomore Charles Barkley flanked Moses Malone for the 1985 and 1986 Sixers and were each later selected to the Hall of Fame, but they never made it out of the Boston-ruled Eastern Conference as an interior unit. Walt Bellamy, Bailey Howell, and Gus Johnson were another Springfield-inducted frontline which came up empty, this time for the 1965 and 1966 Baltimore Bullets.
Conversely, Wilt Chamberlain (C), Chet Walker (SF), and Billy Cunningham (PF) starred for the 1967 Sixers, who scored a league-best 125.2 points per game headway to 68 wins and Philadelphia’s first of three championships, but Cunningham was utilized as the team’s sixth man.
All-time, only 14 individual squads from five separate franchises can say that their entire starting frontcourt from a championship season has been tapped to earn orange jackets. (Admittedly, it is possible that other teams existent prior to the forced merger may satisfy these requirements, since it was difficult to confirm those playing rotations and position designations.)
Take special note, here, that Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and Kevin McHale also raised banners for the Boston Celtics in 1981 and 1984, but Cedric Maxwell was the starter. Likewise, either Jim Loscutoff or defensive stalwart Satch Sanders were listed among the first five on several of Boston’s title teams from the fifties and sixties, despite the fact that many of them were well-stocked with five-plus eventual Hall of Famers.
According to Basketball Reference’s depth charts, that was also the case for the 1982 and 1985 Lakers, in which Jamaal Wilkes, Bob McAdoo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and later pre-seven-time All-Star James Worthy were members, but didn’t simultaneously comprise the starting front line. Instead, Mark Landsberger and Kurt Rambis were first string’s power forwards, respectively.
All of which, split hairs aside, reflects exactly how talented and special the inside presence of Indiana’s two latter championship teams — comprised by the ferocious power of Daniels, dazzling ease of Brown, and versatile athleticism of McGinnis — really was, even if distinguishing the final missing piece as such was arguably long overdue.
“I think it speaks to how good the team was,” McGinnis told reporters prior to his enshrinement of what it means to him to have the entire frontline in the Hall. “Finally, it gets the recognition that it so duly deserves.”