The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, usually simply referred to as the Basketball Hall of Fame, is one of the greatest honors a professional player can receive in their career. This year, the star-studded class features the late Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, among other influential names in the basketball world. The honor is well-deserved — these three players alone have won a total of 11 NBA titles combined. The 2020 Hall of Fame class will likely go down as one of the best in history.
Tim Duncan, the star power forward for the San Antonio Spurs, announced his retirement on July 11, 2016, after almost two decades on the court. At 39, Duncan had an impressive record under his belt. At the time of his retirement, he was a two-time league MVP with five NBA championships. His game was arguably at its peak during the early 2000s. He scored a career-high 53 points in 2001; despite losing against the Dallas Mavericks in that particular game, he shot 67.9% from the field and made all 15 of his free throws. In 2003, he ensured that the Spurs won against the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals; Duncan finished the game with 32 points, a third of the total points for the Spurs, who won 101-89. In 2006, the “Big Fundamental”’s strength helped the Spurs avoid early elimination in the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals. The Spurs secured a close victory against the Dallas Mavericks at 98-97, in part because of Duncan’s incredible 36 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Even more recently, Duncan scored a career-high 11 assists in a 2010 win against the Golden State Warriors. He finished his career as fifth all-time in double-doubles (841) and blocks, sixth in rebounding and 14th in scoring in NBA history. With this in mind, it is no doubt why Duncan is lauded as the best power forward in basketball.
On the other side of the country, power forward Kevin Garnett was also making history. While Duncan spent the entirety of his career with the Spurs, Garnett moved around a little bit. He started his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, in which he proved to be an immediate star, leading them to eight playoffs and the 2004 Western Conference Finals. That same year, he won the NBA MVP award. In 2003, “Big Ticket” played an incredible overtime game against the Sacramento Kings; Garnett finished with a stat line of 33 points, 25 rebounds and six assists. In an equally admirable 2005 game against the Phoenix Suns, “KG” ended the night with 47 of his teams’ 115 points — a career high. Although the Timberwolves ended up losing against the Suns 115-122, Garnett still managed to shoot 67.9% from the field. The turning point in Garnett’s career was when he was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2007 in exchange for seven players, one of the largest trades for a single player in league history. The team also acquired All-Star Ray Allen from the Supersonics and alongside tenured Celtic Paul Pierce, the trio immediately dominated the Eastern Conference. That same year, he had a career-high seven blocks in a game against the Chicago Bulls and helped lead the Celtics to their 17th NBA Championship. He was named the NBA Defensive Player of the year for that season, securing the accolade for the first time for the Celtics. At 32, he became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 1,000 career games. At the time of his retirement, “the Kid” was a 15-time All-Star with the 17th most career points and ninth most career rebounds in league history. Since then, Garnett has continued his involvement in the basketball world as a sports commentator and consultant for the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks.
It comes as no surprise that this year’s class includes the late Kobe Bryant. Although his induction is well deserved, it also comes with a measure of sadness after the prolific basketball player’s tragic death in January. Like Duncan and Garnett, Bryant was elected into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Bryant spent his entire career of 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, directly from high school. Like the rest of his class, the “Black Mamba” is regarded as one of the best in the game, with five NBA championships, 18 All-Star selections, an NBA MVP award and two NBA Finals MVP awards under his belt. The shooting guard is praised for good reason. During a 2005 game against the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant had 62 points to the Mavericks’ 61, essentially outscoring an entire team all by himself — and he did that without playing the fourth quarter. The following year, Bryant broke his own record in a game against the Toronto Raptors, in which he scored a career-high 81 points and the second best point total in a single game in league history. Bryant was a gifted scorer and ranks fourth on the league’s all-time scoring list and is the all-time leading scorer in Lakers history. His exceptional skills led the Lakers to two consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010. Both years, he was also named NBA Finals MVP. The year before and again in 2012, he also won two gold medals at the Summer Olympics. At 34, he became the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points. Two years later, Bryant retired. Although fans will not be able to hear his Hall of Fame speech come August, Bryant’s incredible achievements will surely have a lasting impact on basketball.
The 2020 Hall of Fame has some outstanding names already, but the inclusion of these three players make it one of the best classes in history. These prolific figures are taking their rightful place among other famous players, and future classes will find it hard to match the success and distinction of 2020’s inductees.