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 (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 Katie Smith, 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 almost don't need to bother with the rest. Smith was certainly never a consensus choice as the best player in the league. There were occasional suggestions that she might be, though usually with some qualification.
2 Was she the best player on her team?
Smith played for five different WNBA teams and in the ABL. In her first season in Columbus, one of her teammates was MVP of the league. That doesn't happen when you're the best player on your team. In Minnesota she was the best player on the team, but the team was never very good. In Detroit, most people considered Tweety Nolan the best player on the team. In her other three WNBA stops she was well past her prime.
3 Was she the best player in the WNBA at her position? Was she the best player in the conference at her position?
Smith had the misfortune of playing in the same conference as Sheryl Swoopes for the prime of her career. As you might expect, that prevented her from any serious consideration as the best at her position.
4 Did she have an impact on a number of postseasons?
Smith and the Quest won two ABL titles in the two seasons that the league existed. Smith put up a marvelous 25 point performance in Game 4 of the 1997 ABL finals to keep Columbus alive. In the WNBA, it was the acquisition of Smith from Minnesota that got Detroit back on top just when it was beginning to appear that the 2003 title run was a fluke. She was named Finals MVP in 2008.
5 Was she a good enough player that she could continue to play regularly after passing her prime?
Unquestionably. She started 30 games for New York in 2013, when she was 39 years old.
6 Was she selected to any All WNBA teams?
Smith was named to the All WNBA first team twice and to the All WNBA second team twice.
7 Do the players numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
The WBHOF doesn't have enough WNBA players to have statistical benchmarks like some more established Halls. However, Smith retired as the second leading scorer in WNBA history and won the 2001 scoring title. It is safe to say that she is likely to meet whatever statistical standards eventually exist for the Hall.
8 Is there any evidence to suggest that the player is significantly better or worse than her statistics?
Smith won three Olympic Gold Medals as part of Team USA.
9 How many MVP-type seasons did the player have? Did she ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was she close?
Smith never won MVP in the WNBA or the ABL. Her best finish was 4th, which she managed twice in the WNBA (2001 and 2003) and once in the ABL (1998). There was no serious discussion of her actually being the MVP in any of those seasons or any other season.
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 this many likely to make the Hall of Fame?
Smith is a seven time All Star. That puts her even with Sue Bird, Nykesha Sales, Lauren Jackson, and Yolanda Griffith. Three of those are no-questions-asked HOFers. Smith also played in one WNBA vs Team USA game and two ABL All Star games.
11 If this woman was the best player on her team, would it be likely that the team could make the playoffs?
She was the best player on the Lynx for six seasons and they only made the playoffs twice. One of those years Smith missed the end of the season and all of the postseason. I would say this is a questionable proposition.
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?
The 2005 trade of Smith from Minnesota to Detroit had repercussions that are still being felt in 2013. Not only did it propel the Shock to two more championships, it began the rebuilding process in Minnesota that eventually led them to the 2011 title.
13 Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and community service?
Smith was often considered a physical or even dirty player on the court, but never in a vicious or malevolent way.
Is Katie Smith a Hall of Famer? You tell me...