NBA games may be on hold, but its history will still be celebrated with the induction of a new class into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It should surprise no one to hear that the three legends that retired in 2016, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, have all earned enshrinement on the first ballot, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Also joining the class is former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich. His induction was first reported by Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston. Former collegiate coach Eddie Sutton will make it as well, according to Tulsa World. An official announcement is expected on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.
The trio combined to win 11 NBA championships and four MVP awards across their decorated careers. Garnett has spent his post-playing career working in media while Duncan is currently an assistant coach for the only team he ever played for, the San Antonio Spurs. Bryant died in a helicopter accident in January, but will be inducted posthumously.
Bryant spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five championships and the 2008 MVP award. His tragic death drew tributes and eulogies from around the league. A Lakers game against the Los Angeles Clippers was postponed to give the team time to grieve his loss, and when they did finally return to the court five days later, they did so only after an extremely emotional nearly-30 minute pregame tribute. Whenever the induction ceremony does take place, it will likely serve as another opportunity for the legends in Springfield, Massachusetts to honor him.
Duncan’s career on the court followed a similar path to Kobe’s. He spent 19 seasons with the Spurs, winning five championships like Bryant but edging him out in MVPs by winning back-to-back trophies in 2002 and 2003. The two battled one another in the postseason six times, with the Lakers taking four of those series. Their personalities couldn’t have been more different, but their rivalry was the backbone of the Western Conference for over a decade. It’s only fitting that they enter the Hall of Fame together.
Garnett’s career was a bit more complicated. He ultimately played for three teams, starting with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but was eventually traded to the Boston Celtics where he won his only championship. He closed his career with the Brooklyn Nets and a second stint with the Timberwolves. Like Bryant, he won an MVP, and the two faced each other in the NBA Finals twice. While he doesn’t have nearly as much jewelry as the others, he was every bit their equal in terms of playing ability. The three combine to form one of the greatest Hall of Fame classes in the sport’s history.
Tomjanovich led the Rockets to two championships in the mid-1990s. He later coached Bryant’s Lakers for 43 games before surprisingly resigning. Tomjanovich also played 12 seasons for the Rockets and was a star at the University of Michigan.
Sutton reached the Final Four three times in a career that saw him lead six different schools. Most prominent among them were Kentucky, which he coached from 1985-89, and Oklahoma State, where he worked from 1990-2006. Sutton has not coached a college game since 2008, so his enshrinement is long overdue.
This year’s class includes three other finalists still awaiting decisions. Collegiate coaches Barbara Stevens and Kim Mulkey along with WNBA star Tamika Catchings. The entire class will be revealed on Saturday. The enshrinement ceremony typically takes place in August, though the outbreak of coronavirus could potentially force the Hall of Fame to postponed the ceremony. Eventually, though, at least three basketball legends will earn their rightful place in the game’s history through enshrinement at the Hall of Fame.