The names are gigantic, three of the biggest and best in basketball for the past 20 years.
The Basketball Hall of Fame class 2020 is full of sizes of all time – one of the most anticipated classes in years.
And while there is reason to celebrate the initiates, this year’s class, which was announced on Saturday, is also marked by the deep sadness of Kobe Bryant’s death.
Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on January 26, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in their first year with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.
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 manager Patrick Baumann.
The inauguration ceremony is scheduled for August 29 at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Bryant’s physical presence will be missing, but his presence will be felt, especially by the one who delivers a speech on his behalf.
Bryant spent 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA titles, one MVP and two finals MVPs. In February, the league renamed the All-Star MVP Trophy as an 18-time All-Star and four-time All-Star MVP. Bryant was a talented and productive scorer, leading the league twice, including 35.4 points per game in the 2005/06 season. He is fourth on the league’s overall 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 offensive and defensive. Duncan won five titles with the Spurs, earned three final MVPs and two regular season MVPs. He played the all-star game 15 times, was eight times in the all-defensive first team and 15 times all-NBA performer. He is one of five players in NBA history who score at least 26,000 points and collect at least 15,000 rebounds.
Garnett won a championship with the Boston Celtics, was a 15-time all-star and nine-time all-defensive selection. Garnett scored a goal – don’t sell it there too short – and scored at least 20 points on average nine times. But he was a dominant defensive force, winning the defensive player of the year in 2008 when the Celtics won the title. He led the league four times in rebounding and is 10th on the all-time rebound list.
Tomjanovich spent most of his coaching career with the Houston Rockets, first as an assistant, then 12 years as a head coach. He led Houston to successive titles in 1994 and 1995 and ended the race with a 0.559 percent win.
Catchings was a star in college (four-time All-American, Player of the Year 2000), in the WNBA (ten-time All-Star, WNBA MVP 2011 and Finals MVP 2012) and at the Olympic Games (four times gold) medals). She won a national championship with Tennessee and a WNBA title with Indiana. Catchings has also been the WNBA defensive player of the year five times and is the league’s leader in theft. In 2016, she was named one of the 20 largest WNBA players of all time.
Mulkey is one of the best college coaches ever, leading Baylor to three national titles (2005, 2012, and 2019). She was the coach of the year 2012. Mulkeys Bears played 17 times in the NCAA tournament, 13 times Sweet 16 and four times in the final four. 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 has been named Coach of the Year four times (1977, 1978, 1986, 1995) during a 37-year career with 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 list of all-time coach wins at 806.
Stevens is a five-time Division II of the Year coach at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Her teams have won at least 25 games, reached 10 final fours 22 times in a season and led Bentley to the Division II Championship in 2014. She was the fifth NCAA women’s basketball coach to achieve 1,000 victories and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Baumann, who died in 2018 at the age of 51, was the Secretary General of FIBA and responsible for increasing the popularity and visibility of basketball worldwide. While Baumann invested in basketball in the senior sector, particularly at the Olympic Games and FIBA World Championships, he also focused on youth tires and 3-on-3, which will be an Olympic sport in Tokyo in 2021.