CHICAGO — In one of the most anticipated Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame classes in years, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan headline the finalists up for induction in August.
The finalists were announced on Friday at NBA All-Star Weekend, and Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said they kept the class small this year because of the magnitude of the players who are expected to reach the Hall. Colangelo said that was the plan before Kobe Bryant’s death.
“When we met in Dallas after his death, we had to deal with that, and the way we dealt (with) it is that we weren’t going to submit a lot of names,” Colangelo said. “We were going to make it a small class. We want everyone to get their due, and that’s important and sensitive.”
The other finalists: former WNBA start Tamika Catchings, Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, Bentley University women’s coach Barbara Stevens, former NBA coach Rudy Tomjanovich and longtime college basketball coach Eddie Sutton.
Earning induction requires 18 of 24 votes from the selection committee. The inductees will be announced during the Final Four in April, and it is expected Bryant, Garnett and Duncan will be on that list.
To keep the class small, the Hall of Fame has suspended three direct election categories – Men’s and Women’s Veterans Committees, the Early African American Pioneer Committee, and the Contributor Committee – for one year. The International Committee will still induct a direct-elect candidate.
Usually, Garnett showed his emotions with his on-court intensity and colorful language. This time, the former Celtics and Timberwolves forward showed his emotions in a different way.
This weekend, Garnett learned he would be one of the eight finalists for this year’s Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and that the Celtics would retire his No. 5 jersey next season.
“Everything stopped if I’m being honest,” Garnett said. “It hit home to why we’re all here. It’s going to feel real at some point because it hasn’t. Today it made it feel real.”
Garnett admitted feeling extra emotional after seeing a video that announced the late Kobe Bryant as one of the finalists. Yet, he showed a hint of annoyance when asked about his favorite Bryant memories before walking away.
Though Garnett was known for his competitive matchups with Bryant in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals, the former Celtics forward talked more at length about Bryant in an upcoming “All the Smoke” podcast with former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.
As for Garnett’s upcoming jersey retirement, that will mark the 24th time the Celtics hung a former players’ jersey in the Garden rafters. The Celtics most recently retired Paul Pierce’s No. 34 during the 2017-18 season.
“Whenever you get your number retired that’s earned,” Garnett said. “I’m very appreciative of Boston ownership and them recognizing that. I told them I don’t need the Paul Pierce ceremony. I’ll keep it real simple. But I am very appreciative of them recognizing.”
ESPN’s Michael Wilbon and Mike Breen were named the 2020 Curt Gowdy Media Award recipients and will be recognized in the Hall for the contributions to print and electronic media.