The names are gigantic, three of the biggest and best in basketball in the past 20-plus years.
The 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class is loaded with all-time greats – one of most anticipated classes in years.
And while there is reason to celebrate the inductees, this year’s class, which was announced Saturday, is also marked by the profound sadness of Kobe Bryant’s death.
Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter Gianna and seven other people on Jan. 26, was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in their first year of eligibility.
Also elected: former NBA coach Rudy Tomjanovich, former WNBA star Tamika Catchings, Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, former Division II women’s coach Barbara Stevens, former Division I men’s coach Eddie Sutton and former FIBA executive Patrick Baumann.
The enshrinement ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 29 at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Bryant’s physical presence will be missed, but his presence will be felt, especially by whomever delivers a speech on his behalf.
Bryant spent his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA titles, one MVP and two Finals MVPs. An 18-time All-Star and four-time All-Star MVP, the league renamed the All-Star MVP trophy after him in February. Bryant was a gifted and prolific scorer and led the league in scoring twice, including 35.4 points per game in 2005-06. He is fourth on the league’s all-time scoring list. Bryant also won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA and was a regular on the NBA’s all-defensive team.
Duncan was a force for the San Antonio Spurs offensively and defensively. Duncan won five titles with the Spurs, earned three Finals MVPs and two regular-season MVPs. He made the All-Star Game 15 times, was on the all-defensive first-team eight times and all-NBA performer 15 times. He is one of five players in NBA history to score at least 26,000 points and collect at least 15,000 rebounds.
Garnett won one championship with the Boston Celtics, was a 15-time All-Star and nine-time all-defensive selection. Garnett could score – don’t sell him short there – averaging at least 20 points nine times. But he was a dominating force defensively, winning defensive player of the year in 2008, the year the Celtics won the title. He led the league in rebounding four times and is 10th on the league’s all-time rebounding list.
Tomjanovich spent the majority of his coaching career with the Houston Rockets, first as an assistant then 12 years as the head coach. He led Houston to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995 and finished with a winning percentage of .559.
Catchings was a star in college (four-time All-American, player of the year in 2000), in the WNBA (10-time All-Star, WNBA MVP in 2011 and Finals MVP in 2012) and at the Olympics (four gold medals). She won a national championship with Tennessee and WNBA title with Indiana. Catchings was also the WNBA’s defensive player of the year five times and is the league’s all-time leader in steals. In 2016, she was named one of the WNBA’s 20 greatest all-time players.
Mulkey is one of the great college coaches of all-time, leading Baylor to three national titles (2005, 2012 and 2019) and is third all-time in winning percentage. She was the coach of the year 2012. Mulkey’s Bears have played in the NCAA tournament 17 times, reached the Sweet 16 13 times and appeared in the Final Four four times. She is also the first person to win a national championship as a player (Louisiana Tech), assistant coach (Louisiana Tech) and head coach (Baylor).
Sutton was named coach of the year four times (1977, 1978, 1986, 1995) during a 37-year career at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and San Francisco. He is the first coach to lead four schools to the NCAA Tournament. His teams reached the Final Four three times, and Sutton is ninth on the all-time coaching wins list with 806.
Stevens is a five-time Division II coach of the year at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Her teams have won at least 25 games in a season 22 times, reached 10 Final Fours and she led Bentley to the Division II championship in 2014. She became the fifth coach in NCAA women’s basketball to reach 1,000 victories and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Baumann, who died in 2018 at 51, was FIBA’s secretary-general and responsible for helping increase basketball’s popularity and visibility worldwide. While invested in basketball at the senior level, especially Olympics and FIBA World Cups, Baumann also focused on youth hoops and 3-on-3, which will be an Olympic sport in Tokyo in 2021.