We will never see another introduction to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame as the 2020 Class.
Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett form the greatest class in NBA history. No one else is approaching. They will be introduced at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut on Saturday, nine months after the pandemic delayed their detention and an hour’s drive from the recently renovated Springfield Hall of Fame.
It’s hard to find a bigger Hall of Fame class in any sport.
The rare time of this year’s ceremony – in the abyss of the NBA playoffs in 2021, not in the middle of summer ̵
They will be joined by four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Ketches, former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann and head coaches Rudy Tomjanovic, Eddie Sutton, Kim Mulkey and Barbara Stevens.
By most accounts, Bryant and Duncan are two of the 10 greatest players ever. They have 21 first-team selections from all of the NBA, 10 championships, five final MVPs, and three regular-season MVPs. Rarely are there two players in the top 10 who even share a first-class position. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Bryant and Duncan. At no point has anyone been introduced to a peer unless you have 1980s footage of Jerry West and Oscar Robertson on your list of the top 10, and we’re not here to argue if you do.
You can easily make a case that Garnett belongs to the top 20. Many stores have. We were unlucky to watch three top 20 players competing at the same time. The fact that they all retired in the same year is exceptional. If you haven’t been there to witness their entire careers, imagine that Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were exponentially better and retired with LeBron James. Or if Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and James Harden manage to raise their status historically in the next few seasons and get out of the game together.
Bryant, Duncan and Garnett made a total of 39 appearances in the All-NBA, the most in each class. Only four others – probably the next four greatest classes ever – had more than 25 combined nods from the All-NBA:
2009: Michael Jordan, John Stockton and David Robinson (32)
1980: West, Robertson, Jerry Lucas (27)
2010: Carl Malone, Scotty Pipen, Dennis Johnson and Gus Johnson (27)
2016: Shaquille O’Neill, Alan Iverson, Yao Ming and Zelmo Beatty (26)
(That Jordan has more MVPs than this year’s class combined is remarkable on another level.)
It would be a holiday if one of Bryant, Duncan and Garnett were hired this weekend. The awards are almost too many to list, but they deserve their flowers, so let’s indulge in a little nostalgia.
Bryant was an 18-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA team, 12-time All-Defensive team, five-time champion, four-time All-Star Game MVP, two-time goal champion, two-time MVP finals, 1997 helmet champion. and MVP of the regular season in 2008. His numbers 8 and 24 are retired by the Los Angeles Lakers.
He was a child prodigy, the most chosen winger in high school when the Charlotte Hornets elevated him to 13th overall in 1996 and traded his rights with the Lakers. He was the successor to Jordan, almost coinciding with the six championships of his reluctant mentor and surpassing His Erness in longevity.
The audacity needed to model yourself after Michael Jordan and get closer to reflecting him, like everyone else, is surpassed only by the competitiveness and instinct of Bryant’s killer. These traits may have led to his divorce from Shaquille O’Neal after winning three consecutive championships together, but they also drove Bryant to two more rings with Po Gasol. Few scorers were scarier than Bryant, whose 81 points are the most in play than anyone other than Wilt Chamberlain. Bryant’s 60-point farewell to the 37-year-old in 2016 made him the oldest player to score, raising his overall career to 33,643, the fourth of all time.
Duncan was a 15-time All-Star, All-NBA and All-Defensive choice, a five-time champion, a three-time MVP in the finals, a two-time regular season MVP and rookie of the year in 1998. The San Antonio Spurs retired at number 21.
He spent four years at Wake Forest before the Spurs made him the best choice at the age of 21 in 1997. Nicknamed “The Great Fundamental” by O’Neill, Duncan spoke softly and carried a large stick like the backbone of a dynasty. . His quiet commitment to victory created the perfect match for Spurs coach Greg Popovich’s tough demands, and together they fostered a culture that kept Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in power.
Understanding Duncan’s angles made him methodically devastate both ends of the floor. He hooked blocks and tilted jumps with equal precision. The result was more than 25,000 career points, 15,000 rebounds, 4,000 assists, 3,000 blocks and 1,000 steals – numbers that match only Karim Abdul-Jabar.
David Robinson will introduce Duncan at the ceremony on Saturday.
Garnett was a 15-time All-Star, a 12-time All-Defensive pick, a nine-time All-NBA nod, a four-time rebound champion, an MVP of the 2003 All-Star Game, a regular season MVP of 2004, 2008, and a 2008 champion. No. 21 with the Minnesota Timberwolves and No. 5 with the Boston Celtics will be withdrawn.
There has never been a more intense player than Garnett, whose ferocity commands respect from both teammates and opponents. He arrived a 19-year-old unfinished product and left perhaps the most qualified big man in NBA history. There was no giving the game to Garnett. He slammed his head into stands during pre-game overheating, talked to the tip of the trash, blocked shots after the whistle, and delivered some of the most memorable post-game interviews in NBA history. He embodied one franchise and resurrected another.
Garnett was the prototype of today’s unicorns. Before there was Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis or Joel Embiid, there had to be Garnett. It’s one thing to have his skills, but you don’t get to 26,071 points, 14,662 rebounds, 5,445 assists, 2,037 blocks and 1,859 thefts without Garnett’s will.
Isiah Thomas will attend Garnett on Saturday.
Who knows what the careers of Bryant, Duncan and Garnett would look like if they were turned upside down in Los Angeles, San Antonio and Minnesota. This is an interesting thought experiment that goes off the rails once you remember how determined each of these experiences is. Nevertheless, they all arrived at the same place at the same time as the greatest class in the Hall of Fame in history, now and probably forever.
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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer at Yahoo Sports. Do you have any advice? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach
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