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Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announces 2020 finalists

February 19, 2020
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The list of basketball’s Hall of Famers is set to get a little longer.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has announced its initial list of eight finalists for the honor; the inductees will be named during the Final Four in April.

It will be an incredible class, one whose excellence will be celebrated despite the looming shadow of the too-soon demise of Kobe Bryant, who perished in a helicopter crash last month. But even with the specter of tragedy hanging over the proceedings, one can’t help but recognize the truth that this could well be the greatest class in the Hall’s history.

Bryant is joined by fellow first-time eligibles Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, as well as WNBA and Olympic star Tamika Catchings. Also under consideration are coaches Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Rudy Tomjanovich.

Obviously, any conversation about this class has to start with Kobe, who would have been an automatic inductee even without the sadness of his passing. Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, becoming one of the winningest players of his generation; he made seven Finals and earned five championships. Oh, and he was also one of the best scorers in NBA history; his 33,643 career points put him third all-time. Then you can add his staggering defensive prowess – nine first-team All-Defensive, three second-team. He won an MVP, was an 18-time All-Star (winning game MVP honors four times; the league renamed the All-Star MVP in his honor this year) and was named to the All-NBA first team 11 times (second team once, third twice). Plus he’s got a pair of Olympic gold medals (2008 and 2012). Any way you care to slice it, he’s one of the 10 best players in NBA history.

Kobe’s induction will undoubtedly be the major story of the day, but he won’t be going in alone; some other all-time greats of the game are on the docket as well.

Tim Duncan might be a top-10 guy in his own right. In his 19 years in the NBA – all with the San Antonio Spurs – he averaged 19 points and 10.8 rebounds a game … for nearly 1,400 games. He’s the only player in NBA history to win over 1,000 games with one team; he won five titles and three Finals MVPs and made the playoffs literally every year of his career. His numbers are staggering: 26,496 points (14th all-time), 15,091 rebounds (sixth), 3,020 blocks (fifth). He won back-to-back MVP awards and was the 1997-98 Rookie of the Year. He was named to 15 All-NBA teams, making the first team 10 times, the second three and the third team twice. Duncan also made the All-Defensive first team eight times and the second team seven. All while being perhaps the most fundamentally sound superstar ever. He has a legitimate case as the best power forward in NBA history.

It’s an indicator of just how staggeringly accomplished this class is that Kevin Garnett sits third on the list. He carried his legendary competitiveness through 21 years as an NBA player. Garnett’s 1,462 games rank seventh in league history, but it’s what he did with those games that made him a legend. He scored 26,071 points, good for 17th all time, and grabbed 14,662 boards – ninth. In a fun bit of synchronicity, Garnett currently sits in 18th place all-time for both blocks (2,037) and steals (1,859). He’s even in the top 50 (barely) in assists. He’s got an MVP to go with two seconds and a third. He made 12 All-Defensive teams (nine firsts, three seconds) and was the 2007-08 Defensive Player of the Year. He was a 15-time All-Star and was named to nine All-NBA teams (four firsts, three seconds, two thirds).

Joining this trio of NBA greats is women’s basketball legend Tamika Catchings. Over the course of her 14-year career – spent entirely with the Indiana Fever – she accomplished enough to put her in the conversation for best-ever. Her name is all over the WNBA’s career leaderboard – she is third in points, third in rebounds, eighth in assists, first in steals and twelfth in blocks. Catchings made 10 All-Star teams and won the 2011 MVP. She won a title and was Finals MVP. All that, plus she won gold medals in four consecutive Olympics – 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.

The four coaches are each incredibly accomplished as well. Mulkey has three NCAA titles and 17 tournament appearances as the coach at Baylor; she’s the first person, male or female, to win titles as a player, assistant coach and head coach. Stevens is perhaps the greatest coach in women’s Division II history, the fifth coach at any collegiate level to win over 1,000 games. Sutton has been national coach of the year four times and is the first coach in NCAA history to lead four different teams to the tournament; he’s one of the top-10 winningest DI coaches in history, with just one losing season in his 37 years at the helm. Tomjanovich has two NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal to his name, one of just three coaches to achieve both; he’s also the only guy to score 10,000 as a player and win 500 as a coach while pulling down two titles.

All in all, the Class of 2020 promises to be one of the best – if not THE best – classes in Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame history.

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 February 2020 08:47

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