Bryant”s old rivals like Pierce and Webber wait to see if they’ll follow him into the Hall of Fame


Kobe Bryant’s place in basketball history was secured long before his posthumous enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday night in Connecticut. The fact that the Los Angeles Lakers icon is being inducted by Michael Jordan certainly adds prestige to the honor, but the decision to induct Bryant was more or less procedural.

Not only does Bryant have have five NBA titles and two Olympic gold medals on his resume, but the two-time NBA scoring champion and 2008 Most Valuable Player was named to 18 All-Star games, ranking behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in that category.

In fact, there was a push to induct Bryant before he was even eligible in the wake of the January 26, 2020 helicopter crash that claimed his life and the lives of his 13-year-old daughter Giana as well as seven others. 

So that Bryant was approved by voters in April of 2020 was hardly a surprise and more of an inevitability. (The induction ceremony was originally supposed to take place in August at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, but was postponed until Saturday and moved to a larger arena at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut due to the ongoing pandemic)

While Kobe Bryant's enshrinement in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame was a forgone conclusion, his old rivals are waiting to see if they will be inducted.

While Kobe Bryant’s enshrinement in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame was a forgone conclusion, his old rivals are waiting to see if they will be inducted.

But while the decision to enshrine Bryant was an easy one, that doesn’t make the Hall of Fame any less exclusive.

Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which primarily consider men who played or coached professionally in North America, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame honors players, coaches, and contributors from all areas of the sport, such as the NBA, WNBA, NCAA, and foreign leagues. And given the wider field candidates, basketball’s Hall is a bit more comprehensive, which is reflected in its 2020 class.

In addition to Bryant, Saturday’s honorees also include San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan, another five-time NBA champion, and Kevin Garnett, who beat Bryant’s Lakers in the 2008 Finals with the Boston Celtics and later lost the 2010 title to Los Angeles.

Other inductees have similar credentials: Four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings, two-time NBA Champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich, four-time National Coach of the Year Eddie Sutton, decorated former Baylor and current LSU coach Kim Mulkey, five-time Division II National Coach of the Year Barbara Stevens and longtime FIBA executive Patrick Baumann.

San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan, another five-time NBA champion, is being inducted with Bryant in Connecticut

San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan, another five-time NBA champion, is being inducted with Bryant in Connecticut  

Kevin Garnett, who beat and lost to Bryant's Lakers in the Finals, is also being inducted

Kevin Garnett, who beat and lost to Bryant’s Lakers in the Finals, is also being inducted

Former Baylor and current LSU coach Kim Mulkey

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings

Decorated former Baylor and current LSU coach Kim Mulkey (left) is being enshrined on Saturday along with four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings (right)

After a long wait, four-time National Coach of the Year Eddie Sutton is being inducted Saturday

After a long wait, four-time National Coach of the Year Eddie Sutton is being inducted Saturday

The nomination and voting processes works as follows: 

Both players and coaches must be retired for four full seasons before they can be considered for enshrinement.

For the most part, qualified candidates are voted on by two committees: North American (nine members) and Women’s (seven members).

North American candidates, which includes NBA players, must receive 7 of 9 votes to become a finalist, while Women’s committee nominees require 5 of 7 votes to become a finalist.

Rudy Tomjanovich, who won two titles while coaching the Houston Rockets, is being inducted on Saturday in Connecticut

Rudy Tomjanovich, who won two titles while coaching the Houston Rockets, is being inducted on Saturday in Connecticut 

If a nominee fails to get a vote from a respective committee for three consecutive years, he or she will be removed from the ballot for five years, but can be reconsidered in the future if they receive a single vote in any three-year period.

The maximum number of finalists that may be chosen are 10 by the North American committee and four by the Women’s committee.

Finalists are then considered by the BHOF Board of Trustees, which includes the likes of former Connecticut men’s coach Jim Calhoun and ex-NBA star Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The Trustees are not the final word on induction, but they can veto a candidate if that person has damaged the integrity of the game in any way.

From there, finalists are voted on by the Honors Committee, which is made of a dozen permanent members and 12 rotating members. A finalist must garner 18 votes from the 24 anonymous voters in order to secure induction.

There are also four direct-elect committees that can choose other candidates for enshrinement, forgoing the Honors Committee entirely. Those committees include the Contributors, the Early African-American Pioneers, the International Game, and the Veterans, the latter of which considers candidates who have been away from basketball for 35 years or more. 

Tim Hardaway (seen dribbling around Portland guard Terry Porter) could be voted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, but the fact that he never won a title is likely hurting his case

Tim Hardaway (seen dribbling around Portland guard Terry Porter) could be voted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, but the fact that he never won a title is likely hurting his case 

Paul Pierce, who helped the Celtics beat Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 Finals, could follow his longtime rival into the Hall of Fame, depending on the results of the vote that will be announced on Sunday

Paul Pierce, who helped the Celtics beat Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 Finals, could follow his longtime rival into the Hall of Fame, depending on the results of the vote that will be announced on Sunday

The layered approach to Hall of Fame induction helps keep the possibility of enshrinement open for candidates who may have otherwise been disqualified under different protocols. In other words, only a few players can genuinely claim to be truly snubbed by this process because the door remains open for so many candidates — several of whom will learn their Hall of Fame fate on Sunday.

A day after the Class of 2020 is inducted on Saturday night, voters will name the Hall of Fame’s class of 2021, which will be enshrined in September.

Nine first-time finalists are being considered by voters, including Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce, LeBron James’s former running mate with the Miami Heat, Chris Bosh, decorated Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings coach Rick Adelman, Los Angeles Lakers star Michael Cooper, and Bill Russell, who was already inducted as a player, but is now being considered as a coach.

Webber's candidacy might be the most contentious among all 2021 finalists. An NCAA legend at Michigan who briefly helped turn the middling Sacramento Kings into a title contender, Webber failed to win a championship in college or the pros

Webber’s candidacy might be the most contentious among all 2021 finalists. An NCAA legend at Michigan who briefly helped turn the middling Sacramento Kings into a title contender, Webber failed to win a championship in college or the pros 

But perhaps the most interesting finalists are the players who have failed to be selected by the Honors Committee thus far, which includes four-time NBA Defensive Player Ben Wallace, former Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors guard Tim Hardaway Sr., five-time All-Star Chris Webber, and consensus National Collegiate Player of the Year Marques Johnson, who is also known for his cameo in the 1992 hoops film White Men Can’t Jump.

Webber’s candidacy might be the most contentious. 

An NCAA legend at Michigan who briefly helped turn the middling Sacramento Kings into a title contender, Webber failed to win a championship at either the college or professional level, which is a major hole in his resume (as well as Johnson and Hardaway’s for that matter).  

‘He’s worthy of the Hall of Fame,’ said former Rockets and Lakers forward Robert Horry, as quoted by Sports Illustrated. ‘Athletic, big body, able to move with a grace like a lot of bigs don’t have. 

‘He was very graceful. Talented around the rim. Soft touch. Baby hook. Jumper wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. When you talk about bigs that make the people around them better, he did that with his passing.’ 

Webber, now 48, will learn his fate on Sunday, but will still remain on the ballot even if he fails to secure induction in 2021.  

Bill Russell has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player, but the 11-time champion could also be honored as a coach, depending on how Sunday's vote goes

Bill Russell has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player, but the 11-time champion could also be honored as a coach, depending on how Sunday’s vote goes 

Russell is another interesting case. 

As a player, the 11-time NBA champion was an obvious choice when he was inducted into Springfield back in 1975.  

Bill Russell coaching the Kings in 1988

Bill Russell coaching the Kings in 1988

Russell’s candidacy as a coach is built largely on two significant facts: He led the Celtics to back-to-back titles in 1968 and 1969 as a player coach, and he was the first African-American head coach in any of the four major North American professional sports leagues. 

But after retiring as a player following the 1969 season, Russell struggled in his coaching stints with the Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings in the 70s and 80s, failing to reach the playoffs in his final five seasons on the bench. 

In fact, two years after Russell left Seattle, a Sonics team comprised largely of his former players went on to win an NBA title under coach Lenny Wilkens. 

‘In Seattle there was a perception, not by the players but by some people, that I was intolerant,’ Russell told the Chicago Tribune in 1988. ‘”He’s always been good, so what does he know about having to work at it?”

‘To assume that I don’t know what it takes to play is stupid,’ he said. ‘I played basketball. I was on a winning team, and I was at the center of it. To assume I don’t know anything about team concepts is stupid.’

HOW ARE HONOREES PICKED FOR THE BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME?

Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891

Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891

Named for Dr. James Naismith, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is located in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he invented the game back in 1891.  

Traditionally the classes are announced in April and honored in Springfield in late August, but the 2020 ceremony was postponed to 2021 and relocated to Connecticut due to the pandemic.

Despite the disruptions, the process for electing nominees has remained the same, more or less. 

Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which primarily consider men who played or coached professionally in North America, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame honors players, coaches, and contributors from all areas of the sport, such as the NBA, WNBA, NCAA, and foreign leagues. 

Both players and coaches must be retired for four full seasons before they can be considered for enshrinement.

For the most part, finalists are picked by one of two committees: North American (nine members) and Women’s (seven members).

North American candidates, which includes NBA players, must receive 7 of 9 votes to become a finalist, while Women’s committee nominees require 5 of 7 votes to become a finalist.

If a nominee fails to get a vote from his or her respective committee for three consecutive years, they will be removed from the ballot for five years, but can be reconsidered in the future if they receive a single vote in any three-year period.

The maximum number of finalists that may be chosen are 10 by the North American committee and four by the Women’s committee.

Finalists are then considered by the BHOF Board of Trustees, which includes the likes of former Connecticut men’s coach Jim Calhoun and ex-NBA star Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The Trustees are not the final word on induction, but they can veto a candidate if that person has damaged the integrity of the game in any way.

From there, finalists are voted on by the Honors Committee, which is made of a dozen permanent members and 12 rotating members. A finalist must garner 18 votes from the 24 anonymous voters in order to secure induction.

There are also four direct-elect committees that can choose other candidates for enshrinement, forgoing the Honors Committee entirely. Those committees include the Contributors, the Early African-American Pioneers, the International Game, and the Veterans, the latter of which considers candidates who have been away from basketball for 35 years or more. 

Saturday's ceremony won't be held at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts (pictured) because it was relocated to Connecticut due to the pandemic, which also delayed the induction from August until May

Saturday’s ceremony won’t be held at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts (pictured) because it was relocated to Connecticut due to the pandemic, which also delayed the induction from August until May 



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