Milwaukee Bucks: The Hall of Fame case for Marques Johnson

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 24: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 24: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Now that Milwaukee Bucks legend Bob Dandridge has been officially inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, it’s time for fans to turn their attention to another Bucks legend who has yet to get his due: Marques Johnson.

It is somewhat understandable why Johnson has yet to receive the call to the Hall of Fame. His playing career was relatively short at 11 years and he only played in a total of 20 games across a four-year period from 1986 to 1990 due to a neck injury that wiped out two full seasons.

However, Johnson had a remarkable peak and is unquestionably one of the greatest players in the 50+ year history of the Bucks. He had his number eight jersey retired by the Bucks in 2019, marking the most recent number to be retired by the Bucks.

There are five players who have their numbers retired by the Bucks and also are in the Hall of Fame: Dandridge, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Bob Lanier, and Sidney Moncrief. Johnson remains in the public eye as he is active on social media and does color commentary for the Bucks, formerly with Jim Paschke and now Lisa Byington.

And of course, who can forget his incredible cameo in White Men Can’t Jump? Listen, it isn’t a reason why he should be in, but you can’t tell me that it doesn’t strengthen his case a little bit! But let me give you the basketball-specific case for why Johnson deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame sooner rather than later.

The Hall of Fame case for Milwaukee Bucks legend Marques Johnson

Johnson has been nominated numerous times for induction into the Hall of Fame but has obviously fallen short on each occasion. He’s been eligible for around 25 years now and although he’s admittedly not a shoo-in for Springfield, it’s a bit odd that he has had to wait this long.

However, with the induction of Dandridge, it gives hope that Johnson will get his due very soon. When you look at Johnson’s career in comparison to Dandridge, it makes the case for him all the more clear.

Obviously, Johnson’s career was shorter than Dandridge by two years which is the biggest knock on Johnson (and not winning a championship). However, if we look at each legend’s respective peaks, we see that they’re very similar and the edge probably goes to Johnson.

In Johnson’s nine-year peak from 1977 to 1986, he played 671 games and averaged 20.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.3 steals. He was a relatively efficient player too, with a 55.7 percent true shooting (well above average for that era) and a 52 percent effective field goal percentage. His numbers stayed consistent in 54 career playoff games, where he averaged nearly 40 minutes per game.

In comparison to Dandridge, his nine-year peak was from 1970-1979. He played in 679 games and averaged 19.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.4 steals (steals also weren’t tracked in the first three seasons of this sample). His efficiency was decidedly worse than Johnson’s, with a 48.8 effective field goal percentage and 52.8 percent true shooting, but both were above league average in that era as well.

This isn’t to say that Dandridge isn’t deserving, he absolutely deserves his induction. He was an incredible two-way player and won a championship. He is without question a Hall of Famer, but so is Johnson. In an interview with in 2019, Johnson recognized one statistic that could help his case.

"Y’know, I’ve come across some Web sites about guys who are Hall of Fame-worthy based on “win shares” and other analytics, and they say I am deserving of that."

He’s not wrong! Johnson was worth 79.7 win shares from 1977 to 1986, which is the seventh-highest win shares total in that nine-year span. Everyone in the top 14 of win shares from that period of time is in the Hall of Fame except Johnson. Even further, he has the sixth-highest Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) of those nine years, another example of how incredible his peak was.

By those two same metrics but in the playoffs, Johnson was right around the top ten in both win shares and VORP from 1977 to 1984. He also only played in 54 playoff games, while those ahead of him played over 65.

Although Johnson never won a championship in his career, he led some very great Bucks teams. In Johnson’s seven-year career with the Bucks, Milwaukee went 347-227 and had the fifth-highest winning percentage in that time at 60.5 percent.

There are plenty of other reasons I can give for his Hall of Fame candidacy, but this should be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. It’s unfortunate that it has taken this long for Johnson to get his credit and every year that goes by without letting Johnson into the Hall of Fame is doing one of the greatest players of his era a massive disservice. Don’t just take it from me though, even his peers agree! (Also look how incredibly smooth his game was!)

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: Lisa Byington set to make history with the team. dark

Here’s to hoping Johnson doesn’t have to wait much longer to get his Hall of Fame recognition.