The 30 worst Hall of Famers in pro sports and the snubs who should replace them
Hall of Fame enshrinement is an exclusive honor, meant for only the best players in sports. But what happens when an undeserving player is inducted into the Hall of Fame for eternity? In this list, we make the tough decisions of who does and doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame — which players should get the boot, and who should replace them.
Glenn Anderson (NHL)
To some Hall of Fame voters, postseason success triumphs over regular season accomplishments. That’s almost certainly the case for those who cemented Glenn Anderson as a Hall of Famer — the Glenn Anderson who was at best the sixth-best player on the Oilers’ legendary dynasty team. Anderson played 16 seasons in the NHL, yet he never made a single All-Star team.
The right winger’s candidacy as a Hall of Famer is more a testament to the fact he teamed up with Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, and Grant Fuhr than it is his skills. Anderson’s five championships are impressive, but they don’t make him more deserving of Hall of Fame honors than Keith Tkachuk, who put up better numbers without winning a Cup.
Jim Rice (MLB)
Eight-time All-Star and former American League MVP Jim Rice is an interesting case for the MLB Hall of Fame. At face value, he seems like an easy decision to make, but Rice wasn’t voted into Cooperstown until his final year of eligibility.
At his peak, Rice was one of the best players in baseball. However, his slugging ability began to deteriorate years before he retired. Once a hard-hitting left fielder who compensated for a lack of defense with a powerful bat, Rice became a shell of his former self. With a lifetime OPS of .854 having spent his entire career in Boston, Rice doesn’t feel like a fit for the Hall — especially with Pete Rose still on the outside looking in.
Bill Mazeroski (MLB)
You may know Bill Mazeroski from his iconic Game 7 home run to win the 1960 World Series. It’s one of the biggest moments in baseball history — one that all but guaranteed the second baseman would be elected to the Hall of Fame one day in the future. Unfortunately, the numbers never quite matched the magic of Mazeroski’s World Series moment.
Mazeroski made 10 All-Star appearances, won eight Gold Gloves and was a two-time World Series champion. But the second baseman was known for his glove more than his bat, with an uninspiring .260 career batting average. Bobby Grich could replace Mazeroski in Cooperstown; he was just as good a defensive second baseman but also had a .371 OBP.
Bill Bradley (NBA)
The former U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate may be best known for his political career, but Bill Bradley is actually a Hall of Fame basketball player as well. However, there’s a strong case to be made that the two-time NBA champion isn’t deserving of his Hall of Fame selection.
Bradley is one of only two players, along with Manu Ginobili, to have won a EuroLeague title, an NBA championship, and an Olympic gold medal. But the forward averaged just 12.4 points per game throughout his career and was selected to only a single All-Star game. Chris Webber would be a good replacement, having scored 20.7 points per game and earned All-Star selections.
Phil Rizutto (MLB)
A 13-year Yankee, Phil Rizutto helped the team win seven championships and become one of the greatest dynasties in history. But though Rizutto was a key figure on a historic team, his induction into Cooperstown feels a little rich. The MVP-winning shortstop was a great player, but his career didn’t have the longevity of many of his contemporaries in Cooperstown.
Rizutto made five All-Star appearances in his 13-year career, but four of the five came after he turned 30. Part of that had to do with the fact that after his first All-Star campaign, Rizutto left the MLB to serve in the Navy. Had he been able to play instead of missing those three years, Rizutto’s Hall of Fame resume would have looked a lot more polished. Barry Bonds seems like a better fit here.
Lynn Swann (NFL)
You wouldn’t usually think of a receiver who tallied 5,462 career receiving yards across nine seasons as a Hall of Famer, but here we are with Lynn Swann. It’s understandable why he’s in the Hall — Swann made one of the most famous catches in Super Bowl history and helped his Steelers win four titles — but the numbers still don’t make sense.
Swann was selected to the Pro Bowl three times and named an All-Pro just once. He never had a 1,000-yard season, and he totaled just 51 touchdowns in his nine-year career. Swann is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in football history, but he doesn’t have Hall of Fame numbers. Chad Johnson would be a good replacement, with seven 1,000-yard seasons and six Pro Bowl selections.
Terry Bradshaw (NFL)
A four-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Super Bowl MVP and one-time regular season MVP, Terry Bradshaw is one of the most decorated quarterbacks in NFL history. Throwing passes to receivers like Lynn Swann, Bradshaw became one of the best signal-callers of his generation. But the quarterback’s inefficiency and struggles with accuracy beg the question of whether he deserves to be in Canton.
Bradshaw was a true winner, but were his numbers Hall of Fame-worthy? Bradshaw completed just 51.9 percent of his passes throughout his career, contributing to a measly 70.9 passer rating. Ben Roethlisberger may not have as much hardware, but he’s been the more impressive Steelers quarterback and will eventually join the Hall. He’d be a good replacement when his time comes.
Arvydas Sabonis (NBA)
Here arises the question of whether or not international success plays a role in a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Arvydas Sabonis was a supremely unique player who led his teams to several international titles. But the Lithuanian spent just nine of his 21 professional seasons in the NBA, which makes his Hall of Fame candidacy more complicated.
Some sports fans believe any success outside of the NBA shouldn’t count towards a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Sabonis was nothing short of dominant in Europe, and he managed to make an impact in the NBA as well, averaging 12 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Still, those don’t look like Hall of Fame numbers. Six-time NBA All-Star Shawn Kemp could be a good replacement here.
Igor Larionov (NHL)
Three-time Stanley Cup champion Igor Larionov was part of the Detroit Red Wings’ famous “Russian Five” line. Larionov was a good player in the NHL and an even better international player for the Soviet Union. But the center’s NHL numbers don’t quite stack up with those of his counterparts in the NHL Hall of Fame.
Larionov spent about half his career in the Soviet League and about half in the NHL. The Russian scored 169 goals in 921 NHL games, earning just a single All-Star appearance. Compare that with his 204 goals in 457 Soviet League matches, and it’s easy to wonder what could’ve been if Larionov was as efficient at the NHL level. Butch Goring belongs in the Hall, so he could take the Russian’s place.
Gerry Cheevers (NHL)
The “Big Bad Bruins” goalie, Gerry Cheevers manned the net for some of the best teams in NHL history. With Cheevers in net, Boston won two Stanley Cups. However, it could be argued the goaltender’s play didn’t do the team any favors in its quest for the trophy. The goalie was important to hockey history, but his skill-set didn’t seem to be that of a Hall of Famer.
Despite playing in an era where there were only 15 teams (and therefore 15 starting goaltenders) in the league, Cheevers never finished in the top-five of GAA (goals against average) of any season he played in. That means he wasn’t in the top-third of goalies in any year of his career! Chris Osgood figures to join the Hall soon; he’d be a great replacement for Cheevers.
O.J. Simpson (NFL)
In the case of O.J. Simpson’s Hall of Fame candidacy, the question is simply where to start. When it takes a superstar player like Terrell Owens years to be selected to the Hall of Fame on account of his behavior, it’s fair to question why Simpson hasn’t been removed by now.
If you squint hard enough, one could make the case that Simpson’s playing career falls short of Canton’s standards. We’re not going to do that with the former MVP here. Instead, we’re going to offer three-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Pro Bowler, and zero-time convict Roger Craig as a potential replacement.
Bill Walton (NBA)
One of the greatest players in the history of college basketball, Bill Walton became a two-time NBA champion and a 10-year NBA veteran. But the center’s career stats and lack of longevity beg the question of whether his college success had too big an influence on the selection committee when they elected him into the Hall of Fame.
Walton only played for a decade, and he averaged a pedestrian 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Sure, the big man blocked more than two shots per game and led two teams to a championship, but the numbers don’t just aren’t in Walton’s favor. Jack Sikma should replace him.
Troy Aikman (NFL)
Popular broadcaster Troy Aikman is one of the best in his current profession, and he’s also one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. The three-time Super Bowl champion won Super Bowl MVP and made six trips to the Pro Bowl. He’s a Hall of Famer. But is the quarterback really Hall of Fame-worthy?
With just 11 years in the league, Aikman had a pedestrian lifetime passer rating of 81.6. The Cowboys QB helped Dallas become a dynasty, but a Hall of Fame selection seems a bit rich for the career he had. Ken Anderson had superior numbers to Aikman and a similar legacy for his Bengals, though he never managed to win the big one.
Joe Namath (NFL)
Best known for his guarantee that his Jets would beat the Colts in Super Bowl III, Joe Namath is one of the biggest names in NFL lore. However, he didn’t quite have a Hall of Fame-type career when it came to the numbers. Namath was elected to just five Pro Bowls in 13 years, and was only once a first team All-Pro.
Namath threw 220 interceptions to just 173 touchdowns in his career, making for an abysmal passer rating of 65.5. If the NFL wanted to select a different icon of the early days to represent the league in the Hall of Fame, “Marlboro Man” Charlie Conerly would have been a better fit.
Dennis Rodman (NBA)
Easily one of the best rebounders and defenders in NBA history, Dennis Rodman feels like a player who deserves his place in the Hall of Fame. The five-time champion led the league in rebounding for seven consecutive seasons and was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
However, Rodman’s career was marred by controversy. Rodman had a reputation for being a dirty player, a bad teammate, and someone who did not always focus on basketball. It’s difficult to imagine how a player like Rodman, who was selected to just two All-Star teams and averaged 7.3 points per game, is Hall of Fame-caliber. Ben Wallace had a similar play style, but he didn’t bring as much controversy.
Dave Bing (NBA)
Former Detroit mayor Dave Bing is another player on the list who feels like a fringe Hall of Famer. The seven-time All-Star averaged 20.3 points per game throughout his career, and he led the league in scoring in 1968. However, the longtime Pistons point guard never seemed to play on a great team.
Still, when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, most fans prefer to see players win at least one championship. Unfortunately, Bing was never able to guide any of his teams to the promised land. Tim Hardaway never won a championship either, but he feels like a more complete point guard when compared to Bing.
Herb Pennock (MLB)
One of the best pitchers for the 1920s Yankees, Herb Pennock is another Hall of Famer who benefits from his team’s success perhaps to a fault. Pennock spent 22 years in the MLB, but it seems his Hall of Fame candidacy had more to do with the Yankees’ success than Pennock’s skill.
According to ERA+, Pennock was only six percent better than the average pitcher for his career. Pennock’s ERA hovered at 3.60, and his WHIP sat at 1.3. To replace Pennock, the Hall should consider fellow Yankee Ron Guidry. The Cy Young winner and four-time All-Star put up better numbers throughout his career, and he too was important to the legacy of the New York Yankees.
Frank Gatski (NFL)
Eight-time champion center Frank Gatski was an integral member of the dominant Cleveland Browns dynasty of the 40s and 50s. He was also known for being a member of the “Filthy Five,” a group of Browns players who did not wash their practice uniforms throughout the season.
Four of Gatski’s championships were in the AAFC, which was a competitor to the NFL. He also earned four NFL championships after the Browns joined the league in 1950. Though Gatski’s teams won a lot of games, the center made just one Pro Bowl in his career. Three-time Super Bowl champion and four-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Joe Jacoby would be a good replacement for Gatski.
Reggie Miller (NBA)
Reggie Miller was one of the important players of his generation, but he wasn’t a Hall of Fame-caliber NBA player. The Pacers guard almost always seemed to come up big when his team needed it most, but his body of work — five All-Star appearances and three All-NBA third team selections — isn’t what one would expect of a Hall of Famer.
Miller was a good (not great) shooter, and he had a narrow skill-set. His lack of stats seemed to go overlooked because he was the best shooter in NBA history, but with Ray Allen coming to the Hall (and Steph Curry eventually to follow), he now feels out of place.
Gail Goodrich (NBA)
A solid player for UCLA and the Los Angeles Lakers, Gail Goodrich was a member of some talented basketball teams. Standing at just 6-foot-1, Goodrich developed a reputation for being a smart player and quality scorer. The five-time All-Star won a title with the Lakers in 1972 and averaged 18.6 points per game throughout his career.
For a five-time All-Star, however, Goodrich wasn’t a very diverse player. There wasn’t much to the guard’s game outside of scoring. Had he not been on some of the great Lakers teams, he likely would’ve faded into obscurity. Mark Jackson didn’t have the All-Star appearances and championships, but he was a player with a more diverse skill-set who could replace Goodrich in the Hall.
John Stallworth (NFL)
Another member of the dominant Steelers dynasty of the 1970s and 1980s, John Stallworth is a three-time Pro Bowler and four-time Super Bowl champion. Like Lynn Swann, Stallworth played in some huge games but wasn’t a true superstar for the majority of his career.
With just three 1,000-yard seasons in his 14-year career, Stallworth was never one of the league’s top pass-catchers. His selection to the Hall of Fame is likely a tribute to the success of the Steelers dynasty, rather than to the pass-catcher’s achievements as an individual. With Stallworth’s numbers below Canton’s usual standards, it would be nice to see Torry Holt take his place.
Clark Gillies (NHL)
Left wing Clark Gillies was famous for his role on the Islanders’ “Trio Grande” line alongside Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier. Gillies was a physical power forward who gave his team an edge. However, Gillies’ numbers don’t look like Hall of Fame numbers. The winger had a nice two-year peak, finishing ninth and 13th in the league in points.
However, Gillies only finished in the top-60 in points four times in his entire career. This lack of production, despite playing alongside two players who arguably top-25 skaters in NHL history, is why Gillies is a questionable choice for the Hall of Fame. Eric Lindros would fill in his spot nicely.
Calvin Murphy (NBA)
One of the best free-throw shooters in NBA history, Calvin Murphy was inducted to the Hall of Fame after a successful career with the Rockets. The 5-foot-9 guard was a great scorer, averaging 17.9 points per game throughout his career. Unfortunately, Murphy didn’t do much aside from scoring. The point guard only averaged 4.4 assists per game, and he was only elected to one All-Star team.
Murphy was a good player, but he doesn’t have a Hall of Fame resume. Strangely, Murphy did not even play for a championship team. Three-time NBA All-Star point guard and 90s star Kevin Johnson would’ve been the better choice here, as he brought more skills to the table than simply the ability to score.
Bob Griese (NFL)
Six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Bob Griese is one of the most legendary passers in Dolphins history. Known for being one of the quarterbacks of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins, Griese accumulated a record of 92-56-3 throughout his career. He also won two Super Bowls. However, Griese doesn’t have the numbers one would expect of a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Though Griese won an MVP award and helped his team become one of the most successful dynasties in history, he had a career passer rating of 77.1. He never threw for more than 2,473 yards in a season, and he only threw 20 more touchdowns than interceptions throughout his career. Donovan McNabb might be a good replacement for Griese.
Roger Wehrli (NFL)
Seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback Roger Wehrli was a great player whose Hall of Fame induction came as a major surprise. Wehrli was a great player, and Roger Staubach even claimed the Cardinals’ corner was the best defensive back he’d played against. Still, Wehrli wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame until two-and-a-half decades after his career ended.
In 14 seasons, Wehrli intercepted 40 passes and scored two touchdowns. He was a great player in his own right, but those who oppose his Hall of Fame candidacy argue he was only an exceptional player for two seasons. Additionally, the defensive back never led the league in interceptions. Super Bowl champion and nine-time Pro Bowler John Lynch feels more deserving here.
Joe Nieuwendyk (NHL)
A four-time All-Star and the 1999 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Joe Nieuwendyk is another member of the Hockey Hall of Fame whose selection turned some heads. The center was a solid player throughout his 20-year career, but he seemed to be more of a really good player than a true superstar.
Nieuwendyk may be best known for being the player whom the Calgary Flames traded for Jarome Iginla, due to Nieuwendyk not wanting to sign a long-term contract with the Flames. Despite the fact Nieuwendyk helped Calgary win its first and only Stanley Cup in 1989, Iginla is still the more beloved player among Flames fans. That’s a telling sign; Jarome Iginla deserves a place in the Hall of Fame.
Frank Ramsey (NBA)
Seven-time NBA champion Frank Ramsey was an integral member of the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1950s and 1960s. He played the sixth man role, meaning he was the first player off the bench when the team needed to make a substitution. His selection to the Hall of Fame came as a bit of a surprise, considering it’s very rare for a bench player to make the Hall of Fame in any sport.
Had Ramsey played for a different team, odds are he would not be a Hall of Famer. The swing-man averaged 13.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, which isn’t all that impressive of a stat line — even adjusting for the era. This was reflected in the fact that Ramsey was never elected to an All-Star game. Bob Dandridge would be a good replacement in this circumstance.
Paul Hornung (NFL)
Five-time champion Paul Hornung was one of the first stars in the Super Bowl era of the NFL. The running back won five championships with the Packers, including Super Bowl I: the first championship after the NFL-AFL merger. However, many fans argue Hornung is not a Hall of Fame-caliber player. Hornung played for a Packers dynasty that was so loaded it featured a running back that was actually better than the Hall of Famer.
That’s right, Hornung was actually the second-best running back on his own team. Hall of Fame running back Jim Taylor handled the bulk of ball-carrying duties for Green Bay. Hornung was a two-time Pro Bowler, but he wasn’t as deserving of enshrinement as a player like Shaun Alexander.
Lou Brock (MLB)
One of the fastest players in MLB history, Lou Brock broke the league record for most career steals before he was passed by Rickey Henderson. Brock was a really good player, hitting .293/.343/.410 over the course of his career. Though he didn’t have much power, Brock made enough contact to take advantage of his elite speed.
Brock led the league in steals eight times, but he also led the league in times caught stealing with seven. For a player without a ton of power, one would’ve expected Brock to hit for a better average. Among players with 3,000 or more hits, only Robin Yount has a worse OBP than Brock’s .343. Tim Raines would be a good replacement.
Bruce Sutter (MLB)
Perhaps the most puzzling player in the MLB Hall of Fame, Bruce Sutter was a relief pitcher who didn’t have numbers that were all that impressive. The six-time All-Star was a good player, but he didn’t make the Hall of Fame until his 13th appearance on the ballot.
When he retired, Sutter’s 300 saves were good for third-most in MLB history. However, about three decades later, more than 20 pitchers — many of whom likely won’t be enshrined in Cooperstown — have passed his total. Sutter was a good pitcher, and a World Series champion at that. But his numbers don’t just add up here. Curt Schilling would be a controversial but worthy replacement selection.