Everything we know so far and a brief retrospective of the newest inductees’ careers
~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~
On April fourth of this year, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame named the nine new members scheduled to be inducted into their hallowed halls. That, of course, was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Enshrinement Ceremony was pushed to an unspecified date in October, but two months ago, the concerns surrounding the spread of the virus were deemed to have not subsided enough.
Instead, Naismith decided to May 13-15, 2021. While the decision to move the ceremony is easily justifiable given the world’s health status at the moment, that did not stop the dissolution of several full-time positions amongst the upper and senior management of Naismith. Additionally, the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) official website states compensation cuts have reached up to 40% amidst those still on staff.
While the situation is decidedly not ideal, the 2020 class is still one that deserves to be celebrated in spite of the global setting during its proposed celebration.Names such as Patrick Baumann, Tamika Catchings, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens and the late Eddie Sutton fill the most recent class, but the group’s “headlining” names are, conceivably, the most popular they’ve initiated in some years. However, that is not to take away from the collective forged excellence of the aforementioned inductees. They maintained basketball’s well-being in their own ways, whether it be at the college level or in an organization’s front office, but the class’s headliners made lasting waves at the sport’s highest level while living in the forefront of the public eye. Why don’t we stop beating around the bush and get to the names, eh?
The 2020 class is undoubtedly led by the pride of Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Kobe Bryant. While the circumstances surrounding his induction come in an even more difficult time following his and his daughter’s untimely passing earlier this year, Bryant’s accomplishments surrounding the game of basketball must ultimately be celebrated. I could list all of the awards and honors the five time NBA champion, Most Valuable Player (MVP), 18 time All-Star and three time gold medalist accrued over a two-decade-long career, but I don’t think either of us have the time. Ultimately, the results speak for themselves. Instead, I think a brief exploration of his charity work off the hardwood will assist in painting the full picture of who Kobe Bean Bryant was. The Naismith Hall of Fame may not take philanthropy into account during their selection process, but the unbridled passion Bryant played with on the court directly translated to his humanitarian endeavors.
Along with his wife Vanessa, Bryant founded “The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.” Since 2008, the Foundation’s goal is to assist in the living of children and their families across the country. Whether it be through scholarships, grants or attempts at developing leadership skills, the pair wanted to share the nation’s youth with that same “mamba mentality” Bryant played with every night. In addition to his family’s foundation, Bryant granted over 200 Make-A-Wishes during his life. Just as the listing of his trophies could go on, examples of Bryant’s charity work could fill hundreds of my composition notebook dream journals. If it’s not abundantly clear already, there’s no question the “Black Mamba” is a bonafide Hall of Famer.
I think for this next inductee we should actually talk about their career. You know, more than essentially not at all. Not because they didn’t contribute to life outside of basketball, but more so because, in my own estimation, they are the greatest player at their position in all of the NBA’s illustrious history. I’m talking, of course, of “The Big Fundamental,” Tim Duncan. As I said exactly two sentences ago, I believe Duncan is the greatest Power Forward of all time. While he certainly has competition with the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Charles Barkley, Kevin McHale and even the next inductee I will be mentioning for staking the claim, no other man sustained the same level of success and skill for the duration that Duncan did. For over 19 seasons in the league, he produced a level of stability that earned him five NBA Championships, two MVP Awards, 15 All-Star Game appearances and 15 All-Defensive team nods. No wonder they called him “Groundhog Day.” Look at me flexing with my Tim Duncan nickname knowledge.
Anyways, Duncan was the focal point of the San Antonio Spurs dynasty that dominated the entire league over the previous two decades. Sure, guys like Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili, Kawhi Leonard, David Robinson, Stephen Jackson, Robert Horry and Danny Green helped out, but it is not his fault no other organization could put together a structured, role-assigned team like the Spurs. It also doesn’t hurt to have, again in my estimation, the greatest professional basketball coach of all time on the sidelines in Greg Popovich. Averaging 19.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists during his career, Duncan made a living by adapting to the game of basketball. When the game flipped to being more “outside-in” and a greater offensive focus was placed on the perimeter, Duncan molded his game to fit the bill demanded of him. Through sheer phenomenal sustained play and adaptability alone, Duncan “Old Man Riverwalks” his way into the Hall of Fame. One more nickname for the road.
It is downright disturbing to think that Kevin Garnett, the next inductee into the Hall of Fame, is the third best player in his class. The guy who dragged an abysmal Minnesota Timberwolves franchise to the playoffs seven seasons in a row, dominated fellow inductee Bryant in the 2008 NBA Finals with 18.2 points and 13.0 rebounds and had a surprisingly sophisticated performance in his first film outing, “Uncut Gems.” While Garnett may believe “anything is possible,” it’s a no brainer to include him on the list of the sport’s all-time greats.
Similarly, it is odd to not make a larger deal out of the final inductee in the 2020 class. Rudy Tomjanovich is not only a five-time NBA All-Star, but he is also a two-time NBA champion as the coach of the Houston Rockets from 1992-2003. He, with Hakeem Olajuwon, filled in the gap for the league between Michael Jordan’s historic “three-peats.”
Over the course of his coaching career, Tomjanovich posted a winning percentage of .559 with an overall record of 527-416. Even though his name may not be as flashy as the others discussed, he earned his spot in the Hall of Fame through capitalizing on the league during a period of change. That change didn’t last long, but that’s not what Rudy’s two championship rings say.
All four of these men impacted the game in some way. Whether it be through charity work, their style of play or their innovations, they made changes for the betterment of the sport. Now they’ll each have the orange jacket to prove it in the spring of 2021.
All statistics and award information obtained from: https://www.basketball-reference.com/
2020 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Rescheduling information obtained from: https://www.nba.com/article/2020/08/14/basketball-hall-fame-class-2020-enshrinement-rescheduled
Bryant charity information obtained from: https://serudsindia.org/charity-work-by-kobe-bryant/#:~:text=Here%E2%80%99s%20the%20List%20of%20Kobe%20Bryant%20Charity%20Work%3A,Cathy%E2%80%99s%20Kids%20Foundation%2C%20Stand%20up%20to%20Cancer%2C%20etc.