Basketball Hall of Fame 2022: Inside the most clandestine hall of fame voting process in all of sports

Illustration by ESPN

BOB COUSY TURNED 94 years old last month, and the Boston Celtics legend believes nearly half of his life has been spent affiliated with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I've served in just about every capacity on every committee," the "Houdini of the Hardwood" says with pride one summer morning, calling from his home in Worcester, Massachusetts, about an hour's drive east from the hall in Springfield. The 13-time All-Star, six-time champion and 1957 NBA MVP was inducted as a player in 1971. Nearly two decades later, in 1989, Cousy became the first Hall of Famer to be named president of the hall itself -- a short stint that he says was more honorary than hands-on.

For all his involvement, Cousy admits that he has one notable blind spot: how someone becomes a Hall of Famer.

"Because of my reasons or someone else's," he says, "I've never taken time to inform myself on the voting process."

There's a primer on the hall's website, but it doesn't provide identities of the voters themselves, a sharp contrast from the respective halls for professional hockey, football and baseball. So who are the voters? Who picks them? And why is the whole procedure shrouded in mystery?

These are among Cousy's queries, and when details -- provided to ESPN by those who have voted (and who largely wanted to remain anonymous) along with top executives at the hall -- are shared with Cousy, he pauses, then offers a long "hmmmmmm."

"It sounds byzantine," Cousy says. "It probably wouldn't pass a Supreme Court muster."

The hall's latest class, a 13-member group that features Manu Ginobili, Tim Hardaway, Bob Huggins, Swin Cash and Lindsay Whalen, among others, will be enshrined in basketball's birthplace this weekend. How that class came about, exactly, is unclear, because the Basketball Hall of Fame is the least transparent among the halls in perhaps all of sports.

The election process for the Basketball Hall of Fame is so secretive, in fact, that its final ballots are destroyed.