MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan were elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — arguably as the top NBA trio to ever enter simultaneously.
Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of enshrinees into the Hall of Fame.
“An amazing class,” Duncan said.
They all got into the Hall in their first year as finalists, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings. Others had to wait a bit longer for the good news: Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.
They were the eight finalists who were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection wound up choosing them all. Also headed to the Hall this year: former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann, selected as a direct-elect by the international committee.
All finalists were selected Saturday for enshrinement and will be inducted Aug. 29 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
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 perceived to be locks to be part of this class; they were both 15-time NBA All-Stars, and Bryant was an 18-time selection.
Bryant’s death has been part of a jarring start of the year for basketball: Commissioner Emeritus David Stern died on Jan. 1, Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine who died in the crash in late January, and the NBA shut down March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the U.S.
“Obviously, we wish that he was here with us to celebrate,” Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, said on the ESPN broadcast of the class announcement. “But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him.”
Bryant was also a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as Duncan was with the San Antonio Spurs.
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 also was part of Boston’s 2008 NBA title.
“This is the culmination,” Garnett said. “All those hours … this is what you do it for, right here. To be able to be called ‘Hall of Famer’ is everything.”
“From the day we drafted him in 1995, we knew there was something special about him that Minnesota had never experienced before,” owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Glen Taylor said in a statement. “He was beloved by our fans in a way that only few players experience and will always have a place at Target Center. To be elected in his first year of eligibility validates the impact he had on basketball in Minnesota, the NBA, and around the globe.”
In 13-plus seasons in Minnesota, Kevin Garnett led the Timberwolves to the playoffs eight consecutive seasons, culminating in an appearance in the 2004 Western Conference Finals, and he holds a multitude of team records.
Duncan spent the entirety of his career with the Spurs, and is now back with the team as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich.
“It’s kind of the end of the journey here,” Duncan, on the broadcast, said of his enshrinement. “It was an incredible career that I enjoyed so much. To call it a dream come true isn’t even doing any justice to it. I never dreamt I’d be at this point.”
Duncan, Garnett and Bryant were similar in many ways as players: The longevity of their careers, the eye-popping numbers, almost perennial inclusion on award lists, and they also shared a dislike for touting personal accomplishments.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)