NEW YORK. – All eight finalists for enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, headed by the late Kobe Bryant, were announced Saturday.
The other members of the Hall’s Class of 2020 are Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich, Tamika Catchings, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens and former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann, selected as a direct-elect by the international committee.
“He was the head of FIBA and this was a way to honor him,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said. “It was a special thing done through that committee.”
Bryant, Duncan, Garnett and Catchings all are first-time finalists.
Except for Baumann, the eight finalists were announced in February and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection, wound up choosing them all.
Even before the official announcement made Saturday (Sunday in Manila) there have already been multiple reports of the latest HoF class, ahead of the usual revelation at the site of the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, which this year would have been Atlanta. But the entire NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Bryant, Duncan and Garnett were elected.
The Tulsa World broke the news about Sutton, with ESPN adding that it confirmed the report.
Fox 26 Houston and the Houston Chronicle reported that Tomjanovich was voted in, while longtime women’s basketball reporter Mel Greenberg tweeted that Catchings, Mulkey and Stevens were elected.
Bryant died Jan. 26 at 41 in a helicopter crash. He was an 18-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion, two-time scoring champion and the 2007-08 Most Valuable Player. The Los Angeles Lakers great ranks fourth in NBA history in points, and he was selected to the All-Defensive team 12 times.
The former Los Angeles Lakers star’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 US
“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.”
Duncan, 43, was a 15-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion and the MVP in 2001-02 and 2002-03. The San Antonio Spurs stalwart received 15 All-Defensive nods and was a three-time NBA Finals MVP.
Garnett, 43, was a 15-time All-Star, an NBA champion with the Boston Celtics in 2007-08 and the league MVP in 2003-04. He played the majority of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves and had a brief stint with the Brooklyn Nets.
Sutton, 84, coached Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State to the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Final Four three times. Including a brief stint at San Francisco, he wound up with an 804-328 career record.
Tomjanovich, 71, coached the Houston Rockets to NBA championship in 1993-94 and 1994-95. He also averaged 17.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in 11 seasons as a player with the Rockets, and he was an All-American for Michigan, where he remains the all-time leading rebounder and is second in scoring average.
Catchings, 40, was a 10-time All-Star in 15 years with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. She was the MVP of the WNBA Finals as the Fever won the league title in 2012, a year after she was the regular-season MVP. She was a five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Mulkey, 57, was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 2000, and now she is entering as a coach. She led Baylor to NCAA titles in 2004, 2012 and 2019, and she was selected the USBWA National Coach of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2019.
Stevens, 65, has amassed a total of 1,039 coaching wins for three Massachusetts programs: Clark, UMass and Bentley. A five-time WBCA Division II National Coach of the year, she led Bentley to the 2014 Division II title.
The enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, is scheduled for Aug. 29. Should the pandemic force a delay, there is a tentative plan for an October ceremony as well.
For this year, largely because of the star power of this class, the Hall chose to enact a one-year suspension of direct elections from the Veteran’s, Women’s Veteran’s, Early African-American Pioneers and Contributors categories. —Field Level Media