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How close is Jermaine O’Neal to being a Hall of Famer?

When former Boston College [1] and current Suns forward Jared Dudley [2] tweeted on Wednesday, “Jermaine O’Neal [3] look like J.O. from the Pacers,” it got me thinking: He’s no Bill Russell [4], but just how close is O’Neal to being a Hall of Fame player?

Now, this is not an argument for O’Neal’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Repeat: This is not an argument for O’Neal’s Hall of Fame candidacy. It’s simply an examination of how surprisingly close the 32-year-old center is to knocking on Springfield’s door.



For the sake of argument, let’s say O’Neal played until he was 35 or 36 years old, accumulating 2,000-some-odd more points, 1,000-and-change more rebounds and 200-plus more blocked shots and assists over the next three or four seasons. That would put him at nearly 15,000 career points, 7,750 rebounds, 2,000 blocked shots and 1,500 assists.

There isn’t another player out there with that resume who isn’t in the Hall of Fame. If he were to achieve those milestones, he would join Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar [15], David Robinson [16], Patrick Ewing [17], Shaquille O’Neal [18], Tim Duncan [19] and Robert Parrish as the only players to reach those heights. That’s some rarefied air right there.

Of course, that’s probably a pipe dream for O’Neal, as all signs point to the 2011-12 Celtics season as his last. He hinted as much after the playoffs. In that case, he should finish his career with somewhere around 13,000 points, 7,000 rebounds, 1,750 blocked shots and 1,350 assists. That would put him in a class with borderline Hall of Famers Nance (15,687-7,352-2,027-2,393) and Alonzo Mourning (14,311-7,137-2,356-946).

In all likelihood, J.O. would remain on the outside looking into the Hall of Fame, contemplating a career worth of “What if?” scenarios. What if it hadn’t taken four seasons on the Blazers and a trade to the Pacers before he got more than 15 minutes a night? What if he hadn’t been suspended for 15 games as a result of “The Malice at the Palace” during a season in which he averaged 24.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.9 assists? What if injuries didn’t keep him from nearly 200 games between the ages of 26 and 32 over his last seven seasons?

What if he won an NBA championship? Well, I guess there’s still something he can do about that last one.