Kobe Bryant’s resume has yet another entry to prove his greatness: He’s now, officially, a Hall of Famer.
And he’s got plenty of elite company in the 2020 class, one that may be as glitzy as any.
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 Naismith Memorial Basketball 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. 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.
“He was the head of FIBA and this was a way to honour him,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said. “It was a special thing done through that committee.”
‘Incredibly special class’
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.
“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” Colangelo said.
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.”
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. They also shared a dislike for touting personal accomplishments.
But even the Hall would have touched Bryant, those closest to him said.
“No one deserves it more,” Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss said.
Coached for 43 years
Added Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, Bryant’s former agent: “All of us can trust that this Basketball Hall of Fame honour is one Kobe would, and will, deeply appreciate.”
Catchings was a 10-time WNBA all-star and four-time Olympic gold medallist. Tomjanovich, who had overwhelming support from NBA peers who couldn’t understand why it took so long for his selection, was a five time all-star as a player, guided Houston to back-to-back titles and took the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.
“It’s a scary time and families are being shattered by this pandemic. To get something positive right now is so wonderful,” Tomjanovich said.
Mulkey has three NCAA titles as a coach, won two others as a player and had Baylor in position to vie for another championship this season had the global coronavirus pandemic not forced the shutdown of virtually every sport around the globe. Stevens has coached for 43 years and is a five time Division II coach of the year. Sutton won more than 800 games in nearly four decades, and Baumann was one of the most powerful voices in international basketball until his death in 2018.
The enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Mass., 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.
With Bryant, Duncan and Garnett as perhaps the top NBA trio to ever enter simultaneously, the Hall wanted to make sure that no enshrinee would be overlooked.
“We didn’t need to water it down,” Colangelo said. “Next year is another year for many.”
Kobe Bryant’s wife offered a poignant portrait of her NBA superstar husband and their daughter Monday at a sold-out memorial service for the two, who were among nine people killed last month in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles.
Speaking at times through tears, Vanessa Bryant praised her husband’s devotion as she addressed thousands of fans gathered at Staples Center to remember Bryant and 13-year-old Gianna.
“God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other,” Vanessa Bryant said. “He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi.”
The service began just hours after Vanessa Bryant sued the owner of the helicopter that crashed in the fog last month. The wrongful-death lawsuit claims that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions.
The service took place at the downtown arena where Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 17 seasons of his two-decade NBA career.
The ceremony began with Beyonce performing her songs XO and Halo with dozens dozens of backup musicians. Alicia Keys performed Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata later in the program.
After Jimmy Kimmel welcomed the crowd, Vanessa Bryant remembered the family’s life with Gianna and her three siblings and then eulogized her husband. They had been together since 1999.
“He was the most amazing husband,” she said. “Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. I was fire. He was ice. Vice versa at times.… He was my everything.”
WATCH | Vanessa Bryant remembers Kobe, Gianna:
The mourners included Lakers greats such as Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Pau Gasol. NBA commissioner Adam Silver joined Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and dozens of current NBA players, including Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles natives James Harden, Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan. Celebrities such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez also attended.
Vanessa Bryant was followed on the podium by basketball stars Diana Taurasi and Sabrina Ionescu. Kobe Bryant was a passionate advocate for women’s basketball, and Gigi Bryant was a promising young player.
“If I represented the present of the women’s game, Gigi represented the future, and Kobe knew it,” said Ionescu, the Oregon star who was mentored by Bryant.
University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma was followed by Rob Pelinka, Bryant’s longtime agent before he became the Lakers’ general manager in 2017. Pelinka was Gigi Bryant’s godfather, and their families were close.
Pelinka referred to the day of the crash as “when the axis of the world seemed to shift forever, for all of us.”
He also revealed that Bryant had texted him only moments before the crash, asking for help in securing an internship with a baseball agent for teenager Alexis Altobelli, who lost her parents and younger sister in the crash moments later.
“Kobe lived to make other people’s lives better, all the way up to his final text,” Pelinka said.
Among the early arriving fans was Alyssa Shapiro, 27, of Huntington Beach, who said she was inspired to become a basketball player after watching countless Lakers games with her father.
The family’s love of the game — and Bryant’s work in women’s sports — prompted her to become a middle school girls’ basketball coach. Her team had played Gianna’s team and she would watch Bryant cheer for his daughter in the stands.
WATCH | Jordan in tears during his tribute to Kobe:
Holding homemade heart-shaped “Kobe” and “Gigi” signs, she said she went up to Bryant to introduce herself at a game.
“I just wanted to thank him for being such an inspiration to me,” she said. “I grew up watching him on the screen.… It made me realize he’s more than just that guy out on the court.”
The concourse was a sea of people dressed in the team colours of purple and yellow and others in black. On the scoreboard, the Bryant family’s life flashes by in pictures.
At the arena, fans were given a program containing photos, a purple KB pin and a T-shirt with photos of the father and daughter.
Donations to Bryant’s foundation
Money from ticket sales was to be given to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which supports youth sports programs in under-served communities and teaches sports to girls and women.
The service was a chance for a grieving city and Bryant’s worldwide fans to reflect on his impact on his sport and the world while enjoying music and retrospectives on Bryant’s on-court achievements. Bryant became active in film, television and writing after he retired from basketball in 2016.
Vendors sold flowers, Lakers scarves and commemorative newspapers and jerseys. Buses drove up and down Figueroa Street with their signs lit up with “RIP KOBE.”
Bryant played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, who moved from the Forum to Staples Center when it opened in 1999. The five-time NBA champion’s two retired jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — hang high above the arena where he became the third-leading scorer in league history until Lakers star LeBron James passed him on the night before Bryant’s death.
Bryant remained the most popular athlete in Los Angeles into retirement. Dozens of public memorials and murals have been installed around the sprawling metropolis, and thousands of fans gathered daily outside Staples Center to commiserate after the crash.
Symbolic meanings ran throughout the ceremony, which was held on a 24-foot-by-24-foot stage. Vanessa Bryant chose Feb. 24 as the date in honour of the uniform numbers of Kobe and Gianna, who wore No. 2 on her youth basketball teams.
A private funeral was held for Kobe and Gianna Bryant in Orange County on Feb. 7.
Players were taking charges, bodies were hitting the floor, calls and non-calls were being screamed about on both ends. The fourth quarter of the NBA All-Star Game was as intense as the final moments of a playoff game, with the biggest stars in the league holding absolutely nothing back.
And in the end, Anthony Davis was a hometown hero by making a free throw.
Kobe Bryant — ever the competitor — would have simply loved the way this night went.
“That was pretty damn fun,” a sweat-soaked, exhausted LeBron James said at the end.
Davis made a game-ending free throw to give Team LeBron a 157-155 win over Team Giannis in the revamped NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night, the format overhauled to put in elements for charity and ensure that someone was going to hit a shot to end the game.
That someone was Davis, the Chicago native who missed the first free throw and made the second to end the NBA’s mid-season showcase that went down as the closest All-Star Game since the Eastern Conference topped the Western Conference 141-139 in 2010.
Kawhi Leonard, the game’s MVP and the first recipient of the trophy now named for Bryant, scored 30 points for Team LeBron, while James — his team’s captain — and Chris Paul each scored 23, and Davis finished with 20.
“This one’s for him,” Leonard said, speaking of Bryant afterward.
WATCH | Kawhi Leonard wins Kobe Bryant MVP Award:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who captained his team, led his squad with 25 points, Kemba Walker had 23 for Team Giannis, Joel Embiid scored 22 and Rudy Gobert added 21.
“I think it was really interesting,” said Team Giannis coach Nick Nurse of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors. “It was really fun, each and every quarter, from a coaching standpoint.”
Our All-Stars. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeTheNorth</a> <a href=”https://t.co/1J7g0UzSlE”>pic.twitter.com/1J7g0UzSlE</a>
The finish was frantic, and then some. James tried a layup that would have put his team one point away — it was blocked by Antetokounmpo, called a goaltend at first but ruled a clean block after review. Team LeBron controlled the resulting jump ball and James tried a 40-footer to end it but missed.
James Harden then had a chance to win it for Team LeBron, and his 3-pointer went in — but it was waved off by Kyle Lowry taking a charge against the NBA’s scoring leader. James got a dunk not long afterward to make it 156-153, and Embiid made two free throws to cut Team LeBron’s lead to one.
Lowry is making hustle defensive plays down the stretch of 2020 <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAAllStar?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBAAllStar</a>!<br><br>📺: TNT <a href=”https://t.co/ZIpBfhZsAK”>pic.twitter.com/ZIpBfhZsAK</a>
With that, it was next-basket-wins time.
“Really cool,” Nurse said.
Davis was fouled on the next trip, got the free throw to win it, and that was that.
“I told my team I was going to miss the first one to put a little more pressure on myself here at home,” Davis said.
‘Kobe’s presence felt’
James’ team wore blue jerseys, all with the No. 2 for Gianna Bryant. Antetokounmpo’s team wore red, every player wearing No. 24 on the back for Kobe Bryant. And on their right shoulders was a black circular patch with nine stars, one for each victim of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Bryant, his daughter and their seven friends on Jan. 26.
“His presence was felt,” James said.
And with the new rules, the teams went at it in the fourth: Antetokounmpo got out to block a shot by James, Lowry took a charge from his former Toronto teammate in Leonard, elbows got up in collisions for rebound positioning, Paul was screaming encouragement to Team LeBron teammates in a time-out — all adding up to an intensity hardly ever seen in All-Star Games.
LBJ with the fake into the SLAM! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TeamLeBron?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TeamLeBron</a> <br><br>📺: <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAAllStar?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBAAllStar</a> on TNT <a href=”https://t.co/2mgXHVrPQA”>pic.twitter.com/2mgXHVrPQA</a>
“To me, probably the best All-Star game ever,” Embiid said. “Guys competed, it came down to basically the last shot, but I don’t think you should be able to win on a free throw. But overall it was a lot of fun.”
It was the first All-Star Game with a new format: The teams played a mini-game in each of the first three quarters, the scores starting at 0-0 in each of those periods and the winning team in each one earning $ 100,000 US for their Chicago-area children’s charity.
James’ team won the first quarter 53-41, Antetokoumpo’s team won the second quarter 51-30.
Embiid with the windmill stuff! 😤<br><br>📺: <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAAllStar?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBAAllStar</a> on TNT <a href=”https://t.co/s89eRthgOm”>pic.twitter.com/s89eRthgOm</a>
The third quarter had down-to-the-wire, big-money drama with $ 100,000 on the line. But the teams finished the quarter tied 41-41, putting $ 300,000 — the undecided $ 100,000 from the third and $ 200,000 more for the win — at stake in the final period.
The cumulative score at that point was Team Giannis 133, Team LeBron 124 going into the untimed fourth quarter — with another new twist. The NBA decided, as part of the series of Bryant tributes, that the winner of the All-Star Game would be the team that added 24 points, a nod to his jersey number, to whatever the leading total score was after three quarters.
That meant the target score was set: 157. The game clock was off. The shot clock stayed on. The stage for drama was perfectly set, and the All-Star Game — oft-maligned in recent years for a lack of competitiveness — was entertaining again.
.<a href=”https://twitter.com/common?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@common</a> honors the city of Chicago and Kobe Bryant with his opening tribute at <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAAllStar?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBAAllStar</a> <a href=”https://t.co/NFBpKwicB3″>pic.twitter.com/NFBpKwicB3</a>
.<a href=”https://twitter.com/IAMJHUD?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@IAMJHUD</a> delivers a powerful pregame performance to honor Kobe <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAAllStar?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBAAllStar</a> <a href=”https://t.co/XwdSes5w97″>pic.twitter.com/XwdSes5w97</a>