Kobe Bryant’s resume has yet another entry to prove his greatness: He’s now, officially, a Hall of Famer.
And he’s got plenty of elite company in the 2020 class, one that may be as glitzy as any.
Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“An amazing class,” Duncan said.
They all got into the Hall in their first year as finalists, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings. Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.
They were the eight finalists who were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection wound up choosing them all.
Bryant died about three weeks before the Hall of Fame said — as if there was going to be any doubt — that he was a finalist. Duncan and Garnett were also widely perceived to be locks to be part of this class; they were both 15-time NBA All-Stars, and Bryant was an 18-time selection.
Bryant’s death has been part of a jarring start of the year for basketball: Commissioner Emeritus David Stern died on Jan. 1, Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine who died in the crash in late January, and the NBA shut down March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the U.S.
“Obviously, we wish that he was here with us to celebrate,” Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, said on the ESPN broadcast of the class announcement. “But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him.”
Bryant was also a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as Duncan was with the San Antonio Spurs.
“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said.