Editor's Note: Another great post here on a WNBA legend. And keep the FanPosts coming guys!
Back in 1985, Bill James devised a method for considering a player's qualifications for the baseball Hall of Fame called the Keltner List. It consists of a series of 13 questions comparing a player to his peers. The name comes from a brief (and ill-fated) movement to get Ken Keltner elected to the Hall. Keltner was a good player, but not someone who belongs in the Hall of Fame. This method is easily adaptable to the WNBA and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. With the recent retirement of Tina Thompson, let's run her career through the list and see how she fares.
1. Was she ever regarded as the best player in the WNBA? Did anybody, while she was active, ever suggest she was the best player in the WNBA?
This is the toughest standard of the bunch. If you can give an unequivocal yes to this one, you almost don't need to bother with the rest. Thompson was often considered one of the best, but I do not recall anyone saying she was THE best player in the league.
2. Was she the best player on her team?
Sometimes she was, but it was always because someone else was missing. She was the best player on The Comets in 2001, because Sheryl Swoopes was out. She was the best player on the Sparks in 2010, because Candace Parker was out. She was the best player on the Storm in 2013, because Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird were out. OTOH, when Thompson was a free agent she always chose teams where she would be second banana even though there were other options where she would have been the alpha dog. In essence, she chose not to be the best player on a team when she had the choice. Still, it puts her a notch below players who would be the best player wherever they went.
3. Was she the best player in the WNBA at her position? Was she the best player in the conference at her position?
Now we're getting somewhere. Thompson played the four during the prime of her career and was unquestionably the premier player at that position up until Lauren Jackson took off and the two battled closely for the honor for several seasons until age and injury knocked Thompson down a half step.
4. Did she have an impact on a number of postseasons?
Yes, absolutely. Thompson was an integral part of The Comets dynasty, winning four championships. Her teams made the playoffs in 13 of her 17 seasons.
5. Was she a good enough player that she could continue to play regularly after passing her prime?
Yes. She was the best player on a playoff team in 2013, when she was 38 years old. Her retirement was by choice. No one doubts she could have continued to play productively if she had the desire.
6. Was she selected to any All WNBA teams?
Yes. She was All WNBA first team three times and All WNBA second team five times. Only Tamika Catchings, Lisa Leslie, and Diana Taurasi have more All WNBA selections than Thompson.
7. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
The WBHOF doesn't have enough WNBA players to have statistical benchmarks like more established Halls. Thompson is the WNBA's all time scoring leader and will likely exceed whatever standards eventually exist.
8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player is better or worse than her statistics?
Thompson won two Olympic Gold Medals as part of Team USA in 2004 and 2008 and should have been on the team in 2000.
9. How many MVP type seasons did the player have? Did she ever win the MVP award? If not, how many times was she close?
Thompson never won MVP. She got some votes for the award in 13 of her 17 seasons. She finished in the top 10 in MVP voting eight times. Her best showings were 2001, when she finished a distant second behind Lisa Leslie, and 2004, when she tied for third. Her 1.35 MVP shares ranks 13th all time.
10. How many All Star type seasons did she have? How many All Star games did she play in? Are most of the other players with this number of All Star appearances likely to make the Hall of Fame?
Thompson is a nine time All Star, which is the most ever. She also played in The Game at Radio City in 2004. There was no All Star game in 1997, 1998, or 2008, but if there had been Thompson would have likely participated in all of them.
11. If this woman was the best player on her team, is it likely that the team could make the playoffs?
Unquestionably yes. Like I mentioned above, Thompson was the best player on a playoff team in her final season.
12. What impact did this player have on WNBA history? Did she help establish the league? Was she responsible for any rule changes? Did she change the game in any way?
Thompson was the #1 pick in the first WNBA draft. She was one of the few college stars who chose the WNBA over the ABL. She's the first big WNBA star whose career we got to see in its entirety, from start to finish. Most of the early WNBA stars came into the league in mid-career or later. Thompson was one of the few players who wore lipstick on the court.
13. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and community service?
Generally, yes. However, Thompson was never one to shy away from physical play. When Plenette Pierson tried that free throw interlocking arm nonsense on Thompson, the Warrior Princess flipped her like a judo master. And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the "Salute Game". In 1999, Lisa Leslie and Delisha Milton got in the habit of giving each other faux military salutes when they were winning. In the closing moments of Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, when The Comets were about eliminate the Sparks from the playoffs, Thompson mocked Leslie with such a salute. Leslie, enraged, forearmed Thompson in the throat. Leslie was ejected and fined (anyone else would have surely drawn a suspension) while Thompson got teched.
Is Tina Thompson a Hall of Famer? You tell me...