Kobe Bryant’s CV has yet another entry to prove his greatness: he is now, officially, a Hall of Fame.
And he has a lot of elite company in the 2020 class, one that can be as lavish as any other.
Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on January 26, and his NBA colleagues Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, titled a group of nine announced on Saturday as the enshrined class this year at the Hall of Fame Naismith Memorial basketball.
“An incredible class,” said Duncan.
They all entered the Hall in their first year as finalists, as did the great WNBA Tamika Catchings. Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did long-time Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, 1000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley, and triple coach of Final Four Eddie Sutton.
The eight finalists were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who decided who deserved the selection ended up choosing them all. This year too, went to the Hall: the former FIBA secretary general, Patrick Baumann, chosen as directly elected by the international committee.
“He was the head of FIBA and it was a way of honoring him,” said Hall of Fame and Sanctuary president Jerry Colangelo. “It was a special thing done through this committee.”
Bryant died about three weeks before the Hall of Fame said – as if there was going to be any doubt – that he was a finalist. Duncan and Garnett were also widely seen as locks for being in this class; they were both NBA All-Stars 15 times, and Bryant was a selection 18 times.
Bryant’s death was part of an eventful start to the year for basketball: Commissioner Emeritus David Stern died on January 1, Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among the nine people who died in the crash in late January, and NBA closed March 11, coronavirus pandemic began to invade the United States
“Obviously, we want him to be here with us to celebrate,” said Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, during the ESPN broadcast of the class announcement. “But it is definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment he has had as an athlete has been a stepping stone to be here. So we are incredibly proud of him. ”
Bryant was also a five-time Los Angeles Lakers champion, as was Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs.
“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” said Colangelo.
Garnett is the only player in NBA history with at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals. He was also part of the 2008 NBA title from Boston.
“This is the highlight,” said Garnett. “All these hours … that’s why you do it here. Being able to be called “Hall of Fame” is everything. “
Duncan has spent his entire career with the Spurs and is now back with the team as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich.
“This is kind of the end of the trip here,” said Duncan, on the program, about his entanglement. “It was an incredible career that I enjoyed so much. Calling it a dream come true doesn’t even do it justice. I never dreamed that I would be at this point. “
Duncan, Garnett and Bryant were similar in many ways as players: the longevity of their careers, the breathtaking numbers, the almost permanent inclusion on the reward lists. They also shared an aversion to praising personal achievements.
But even the room would have touched Bryant, said those closest to him.
“Nobody deserves it anymore,” said Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, former Bryant agent, added, “We can all trust this basketball hall of fame honor that Kobe will and will deeply appreciate.” “
Catchings was a 10-time WNBA star and four-time Olympic gold medalist. Tomjanovich, who had overwhelming support from his NBA peers who didn’t understand why it had taken so long for his selection, was a five-time star player as player, guided Houston to consecutive titles and won the 2000 US Olympic team at a gold medal.
Mulkey has three NCAA coaching titles, won two more as a player, and had Baylor in a position to compete for another championship this season if the global coronavirus pandemic had not forced nearly everyone to stop world sports. Stevens has coached for 43 years and is a five-time Division II coach of the year. Sutton has won more than 800 games in nearly four decades, and Baumann was one of the most powerful voices in international basketball until his death in 2018.
“The incredible emotions I felt after receiving the Hall of Fame call on Friday afternoon, I can’t even say,” said Stevens.
The ensigning ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts is scheduled for August 29. If the pandemic is delayed, there is also a tentative plan for an October ceremony.
For this year, largely due to the star power of this class, Hall has chosen to declare a one-year suspension from direct elections for the Veterans, Women Veterans, Former African American Pioneers and Contributors categories.
With Bryant, Duncan and Garnett as perhaps the best trio in the NBA to ever compete simultaneously, Hall wanted to make sure no candidate was overlooked.
“We didn’t need to water it,” said Colangelo. “Next year is another year for many. “