The 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has been unveiled and it's a transcendent one, headlined by Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. In addition to those NBA legends, WNBA champion and 10-time All-Star Tamika Catchings will also be enshrined. Also joining the class is former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, former collegiate coach Eddie Sutton, Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey, former women's college basketball coach Barbara Stevens and former FIBA and IOC executive Patrick Baumann.
The trio of Bryant, Duncan and Garnett combined to win 11 NBA championships and four MVP awards across their decorated careers. Garnett has spent his post-playing career working in media while Duncan is currently an assistant coach for the only team he ever played for, the San Antonio Spurs. Bryant, who died in a helicopter accident in January, has been inducted posthumously as well as Baumann.
Bryant spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five championships and the 2008 MVP award. His tragic death drew tributes and eulogies from around the league. A Lakers game against the Los Angeles Clippers was postponed to give the team time to grieve his loss, and when they did finally return to the court five days later, they did so only after an extremely emotional nearly-30 minute pregame tribute. Whenever the induction ceremony does take place, it will likely serve as another opportunity for the legends in Springfield, Massachusetts to honor him.
Kobe's wife, Vanessa Bryant, spoke about her late husband's induction after it was officially announced:
"It's an incredible accomplishment and honor, and we're extremely proud of him," Vanessa said. "Obviously we wish that he was here with us to celebrate, but it's definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to be here. So we're incredibly proud of him."
Former Lakers legend Magic Johnson also spoke about Kobe's induction and the sadness he feels that the Black Mamba won't be there to receive the award.
"It breaks my heart that he won't be there to receive the award himself and give a great speech," Johnson said. "But to his wife and three daughters, and parents and two sisters I want to say congratulations and we as Lakers fans and players will be there supporting you."
Duncan's career on the court followed a similar path to Kobe's. He spent 19 seasons with the Spurs, winning five championships like Bryant but edging him out in MVPs by winning back-to-back trophies in 2002 and 2003. The two battled one another in the postseason six times, with the Lakers taking four of those series. Their personalities couldn't have been more different, but their rivalry was the backbone of the Western Conference for over a decade. It's only fitting that they enter the Hall of Fame together.
After receiving word of his induction, Duncan reflected on his remarkable career in the league.
"You always get the questions 'What would you change? What would you do differently?' and honestly I don't think there's a thing I would do differently," Duncan said. "I was blessed with some amazing teammates, organization, coach ... just individuals here and there. We were blessed with the fact that we got to win championships. We got to have those experiences, but as much as those championships are highlights, the things that you remember too are the losses, the regrouping of individuals, the people you looked to and counted on to pick up he pieces and go right back at it. There's nothing I would change, it was a blessing all the way through."
Garnett's career was a bit more complicated. He ultimately played for three teams, starting with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but was eventually traded to the Boston Celtics where he won his only championship. He closed his career with the Brooklyn Nets and a second stint with the Timberwolves. Like Bryant, he won an MVP, and the two faced each other in the NBA Finals twice. Garnett spoke about his induction, specifically about the career-altering move of going to the Celtics.
"Coming to Boston was a huge challenge in my life. It was probably one of the biggest decisions I made in my career, and I'm glad I made it," Garnett said. "We should've gotten together a couple years earlier, would probably be sitting on two or three more rings, but I'm glad to be here. I'm glad to be able to go into a class with Timmy [Duncan]. I'm very honored to be going in the class with the great Kobe Bryant, Tamika Catchings and others. This is a culmination for me, though. All the hard work, this is what you do it for."
While he doesn't have nearly as much jewelry as the others, he was every bit their equal in terms of playing ability. The trio of Bryant, Duncan and Garnett combine to form one of the greatest Hall of Fame classes in the sport's history.
Catchings' career should also be held in the same regard as her male counterparts. She played 15 years in the WNBA with the Indiana Fever, after being third overall in the 2001 draft. In 2012, the former Tennessee standout helped lead the Fever to their first -- and only -- championship, while also winning Finals MVP. Over her career, Catchings averaged 16.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists, while being a lockdown defender. She's won league MVP and is the all-time leader in steals in the WNBA, a five-time Defensive Player of the Year and has four Olympic gold medals to her name.
Tomjanovich, a two-time champion, led the Rockets to a pair of titles in the mid-1990s. He later coached Bryant's Lakers for 43 games before surprisingly resigning. Tomjanovich also played 12 seasons for the Rockets and was a star at the University of Michigan.
Sutton reached the Final Four three times in a career that saw him lead six different schools. Most prominent among them were Kentucky, which he coached from 1985-89, and Oklahoma State, where he worked from 1990-2006. Sutton has not coached a college game since 2008, so his enshrinement is long overdue.
Mulkey has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player, back in 2000, and now she's being recognized for her illustrious coaching career. With her induction, she's now the first person in NCAA history -- male or female -- to win a national championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach. She's won three national titles with Baylor, most recently in 2019 and has been named USBWA National Coach of the Year three times.
Stevens is just the fifth coach in women's college basketball history to amass over 1,000 wins over her 40-year coaching career. She's been named Coach of the Year in Division II women's basketball five times, and was at the helm of Bentley's 2014 national championship.
Baumann was a FIBA executive for 24 years before he died of a heart attack in 2018. During his time working with FIBA, Baumann helped grow youth basketball across the globe, and oversaw the advancement of 3-on-3 basketball, which will be added to the Tokyo Olympics for the first time when they take place in 2021 after being postponed due to COVID-19.
The enshrinement ceremony typically takes place in August, though the outbreak of coronavirus could potentially force the Hall of Fame to postpone the ceremony.