The basketball hall of fame inductees were announced yesterday. Joining legendary big men Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, who were both elected in their first eligible year, was former Piston, Brave, Pacer, Laker, Jazz, Maverick, Buck forward Adrian Dantley, who was elected in his sixth try. His most prolific scoring years were with the Jazz (1979-1986) when he appeared in 6 all-star games, but I am most familiar with his years with the Pistons. He was acquired for fellow Domer Kelly Tripucka in 1986, and then was traded for Mark Aguirre right before the Pistons won their two championships.
AD was a unique player. He was a low post player, but he was only 6'-5" tall. I can't think of a player currently in the league who is a that size and specializes in playing on the low post. The last one was Charles Barkley, but he was a power forward and a rebounding machine. Dantley was a low-post scorer, but was never much of a rebounder, especially in his years as a Piston. In the Piston years, he was important for their offense as a low-post scorer because their center, another fellow Domer Bill Laimbeer, was usually stationed out near the 3-point arc, so someone had to do the dirty work in the post. Because of his physical style of play, he got to the free throw line a lot. In fact, he still shares the record for most free throws made in a single game - 28.
Will there ever be another 6'-5" low post player like Dantley? I doubt it. First of all, there are hardly any more 6'-5" small forwards. Anyone who comes into the league at that size is now a guard. To be a small forward now, you have to be at least a couple inches taller than that. Dantley and Bernard King were the last of the truly "small" forwards who played much down in the low post. He will probably be the last 6'-5" forward to be inducted into the hall of fame (other than Barkley - is he in the hall yet?).
The enduring memory I have of AD, in addition to his knee high socks, was of him and Vinnie Johnson clunking heads diving for a loose ball in game 7 of their Eastern conference finals against the Celtics in 1987. Dantley was knocked unconscious and was unable to reenter the game, and they proceeded to lose the series. Ouch.
His Piston career ended somewhat acrimoniously, and Dantley blamed Isiah Thomas for running him out of town so that he could get his good buddy Aguirre on the team. Anyway, it's good to have another former Piston in the hall, even though Dantley probably does not look back fondly on his Piston years. I think Piston fans, for the most part, liked him and appreciated his contributions on the court. Since Isiah has turned out to be kind of a douchebag, perhaps the fact that he and Zeke did not get along will be looked at as a positive.