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 the player to his peers. The name comes from a brief 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 Taj McWilliams, 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 that 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 probably don't even need to ask the rest. In McWilliams' case, the answer is no. There was never a time that she was considered the very best player in the league.
2. Was she the best player on her team?
McWilliams moved around a lot. She played for six different teams in her WNBA career. The only one where you might argue she was the best was with Connecticut (and Orlando before the team relocated). There it would depend on your opinion of Nykesha Sales and/or Katie Douglas. I never thought McWilliams was the best player on those teams, nor do I recall others making that claim.
3. Was she the best player in the WNBA at her position? Was she the best player in the conference at her position?
McWilliams played power forward early in her career then moved to center later. At power forward she was always regarded behind Tina Thompson. By the time McWilliams moved to center she was past her prime. Nobody was going to take her over Sylvia Fowles, for example.
4. Did she have an impact on a number of postseasons?
Very much so. McWilliams played in the finals five times, which ties her for the most ever, and played for two WNBA champions. In Minnesota it was her veteran savvy in the post that kept the Lynx from being overwhelmed by taller opponents.
5. Was she a good enough player that she could continue to play regularly after passing her prime?
McWilliams was the second oldest player ever to play in the WNBA and the oldest to play regularly. She started for a WNBA finals team in 2012, when she was 41 years old.
6. Was she selected to any All-WNBA Teams?
McWilliams was All WNBA second team twice, in 2005 and 2006.
7. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
This is a tricky one. The WNBA hasn't been around long enough to set statistical benchmarks that represent what people think of as Hall of Famers. If we run similarity scores we see that her closest matches are Delisha Milton, who is not exactly a slam dunk for selection, and Tangela Smith, who is the very definition of borderline HOFer.
8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by her statistics?
McWilliams was 28 years old when she made her WNBA debut. Had the league existed when she first came out of college her numbers might be even better.
9. How many MVP-type seasons did she have? Did she ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was she close?
McWilliams never won MVP. The only time she was even vaguely in the running was 2005, when she finished 5th in the voting.
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 who played in this many likely to make the Hall of Fame?
McWilliams is a six time All Star and played in The Game at Radio City in 2004. Three other players are six time All Stars: Becky Hammon, Chamique Holdsclaw, and Sheryl Swoopes. That's good company.
11. If this woman were the best player on her team, would it be likely that the team could make the playoffs?
I think so. Her teams made the playoffs in 10 of her 14 seasons.
12. What impact did the 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?
McWilliams was best known for her longevity. When she retired shortly before the 2013 season, people were surprised even though she was 42 years old at the time. McWilliams was an early proponent of the meatless diet and often credited veganism for extending her career.
13. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and community service?
McWilliams won the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award in 2005. Mama Taj, as she came to be affectionately known, served admirably as a mentor and role model for younger players.
Is Taj McWilliams a Hall of Famer? You tell me...