- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

With every NBA season, there are a few rites of passage — Rasheed Wallace’s first technical, Mark Cuban’s first tantrum and the arrival of the “Official NBA Register.”

At 479 pages, the register includes every stat for every active player and coach. But the back section — the one labeled “All-Time Great Players” — needs some work.

It includes Caldwell Jones, Otis Thorpe and Charles Oakley.

It leaves out David Thompson, Bill Bradley and Frank Ramsey.

You can look up Kevin Willis, Sleepy Floyd and Mel Daniels.

But good luck with Bobby Wanzer, Maurice Stokes and Clyde Lovellette.

Sure, the register includes qualifications for making the back section — like 17,000 NBA/ABA points, 10,000 rebounds or 5,000 assists. But this system helps include Oakley or Willis (who played forever) and leaves out greats like Thompson or Stokes, who had great careers shortened by injuries.

Jones is the most egregious inclusion to the section. The 6-foot-11 center averaged double figures in points and rebounds in three ABA seasons, making one All-Star team.

His NBA resume is less impressive — 14 seasons, never averaged double figures in points, never made an All-Star team.

If a thin ABA resume is all it takes to make the cut, then where’s Thompson?

Thompson averaged 26.0 points in his only ABA season. The No. 1 draft pick overall of both the ABA and NBA in 1975, Thompson — along with Julius Erving — was the impetus for the two leagues to merge.

An athletic 6-foot-4 guard, Thompson averaged 24 or more points in four of his eight NBA seasons. He was Michael Jordan’s hero. He is in the Basketball Hall of Fame but not in the back of the “NBA Register.”

Thorpe, Oakley and Willis, all one-time All-Stars, made the book.

Stokes, Ramsey and Bradley are all in the Hall of Fame — but not the register. One of the automatic qualifiers for making the register should be being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

One of the league’s first power forwards, Stokes was named rookie of the year in 1956 and averaged 16.4 points and 17.3 rebounds over three NBA seasons. But he suffered a head injury in the last game of the 1957-58 season, and the resulting seizure put him in a coma for six months.

Stokes slowly recovered but never played again. He died in 1970 at the age of 36.

Ramsey, the league’s first “sixth man,” was a member of seven NBA championship teams with Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics.

Bradley started on the Knicks’ championship teams of the 1970s. Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere and Earl Monroe are in the register. Bradley isn’t.

This may seem like a small issue, a player here and there in the “NBA Register.”

But David Stern seems enamored with trivial issues — the new microfiber composite ball, the new crackdown on whining to officials, Stephen Jackson’s firearms.

If he wants to charge $18.95 for the “NBA Register,” he should pay more attention to who’s in it.

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