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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Explained: Do Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett form the greatest NBA Hall of Fame class in history?

The late Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bean Bryant, San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan and Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (BHoF) as part of the class of 2020.

Written by Shashank Nair , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: May 25, 2021 7:31:55 am
Kobe Bryant will forever remain a cultural icon across the world. File/Agencies

The late Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bean Bryant, San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan and Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (BHoF) as a part of the class of 2020, a batch that arguably might go down as one of the greatest NBA hall of fame classes in history purely based on how all three players were long-time franchise cornerstones who all won championships with their long-time teams.

All three will be first ballot hall of famers, first ballot referring to the fact that all three will be inducted among basketball’s finest at their first year of eligibility.

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What are NBA’s rules for eligibility into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame?

A player must be retired for four complete seasons and should be eligible to be inducted in his fifth season. A player/coach’s application must be processed by two screening committees, a North American committee and a women’s committee. The two screening committees can at most select 14 finalists (10+4). These names then go to the final approval committee. This committee also known as the ‘Direct-Elect’ committee decides on the final names.

Why do Bryant, Duncan and Garnett deserve to be first ballot hall of famers?

Here are some combined numbers for this HoF class: 11 Championship rings, 48 All Star team appearances, 5 NBA Finals MVPs, 4 MVPs, 25 All-NBA First team selections, 26 All-Defensive First team selections.

Those staggering numbers, accumulated through three vastly different career paths, speak volumes of the longevity and quality that all three have enjoyed on their path to being enshrined in the hall of fame. Players with half the numbers of these three usually make it into the BHoF, and therefore there should be no doubt that theirs was a worthy induction at the first opportunity to do so.

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An argument can be made that this might be the greatest class?

Kobe Bryant will forever remain a cultural icon across the world. At a time when the world had begun to wonder whether another Michael Jordan would ever grace basketball, a young Bryant was being drafted straight out of high-school into the NBA. He could make that path because in 1995, Kevin Garnett made the leap of a high-school player forgoing a year in college basketball to directly join the NBA. Garnett’s rookie extension contract, one that every owner/team in the league except for the Minnesota Timberwolves despised, birthed commonplace terms such as the luxury tax and budget caps.

And then there was Tim Duncan. Nicknamed ‘The Big Fundamental’, Duncan was the polar antithesis of Bryant and Garnett. Adjectives like brash, arrogant and cocky may have followed Bryant and Garnett everywhere they went but Duncan was every bit as talented as both of them, and yet the most understated of the trio, a trait that became synonymous with the San Antonio Spurs and their five NBA Championships won during the Duncan era.

At the end of all three players’ careers, they were always guaranteed to be first ballot of hall of famers. But upon reflection of their achievements and their cultural significance to basketball, a case can be made for theirs being the best class in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Who were considered to be the greatest Hall of Fame class in NBA history previously?

One of the best, if not the best BHoF classes till date has been the Class of 2009, that saw Michael Jordan, David Robinson and John Stockton receive the honours. If looked upon at an individual level, then the best player among the six resides in the Class of 2009 with his Bulls jersey.

But on sheer numbers, titles and longevity, the class of 2020 takes the cake for being the most stacked BHoF selections. Stockton, despite being one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game, never won an MVP award or a ring, despite reaching the NBA Finals twice, but losing on both occasions to Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s Chicago Bulls.

Who missed out?

Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat legend Chris Bosh, part of the ‘Big Three’ that he formed with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on their way to two NBA titles, was snubbed from the 2020 class. Bosh was forced to retire in 2016 after blood clots found on his leg made him unable to be cleared medically to play the game again.

Bosh and the Miami Heat were not happy that the 11-time All Star was not selected to the BHoF. In an Instagram post last year, Bosh tried to look at the bright side of things when he had said, “I’m not going to lie and I’ll get right to it. I’m disappointed I won’t be in the hall of fame this year, especially with this amazing class of players I have looked up to throughout my career; but sometimes things don’t work out the way you want, and you have to move on.”

Are Chris Bosh’s complaints valid?

A few considerations need to be made when looking at Bosh’s case. He was an NBA All-Star when forced to retire from the game. He may have been the third cog in the ‘Big Three’ but was instrumental in the success of Miami Heat and was responsible for LeBron James winning his first title ever.

The fact that Bosh, who was forced into this loaded class of graduates because of his injury, was not just snubbed, but wasn’t even considered as a finalist among all participants chosen, is a mistake on the part of the committees in charge. But it was later announced that Bosh would headline the 2021 Class, along with Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce and Indiana Pacers’ Chris Webber and Detroit Pistons’ Ben Wallace.

The Greatest Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant – 5xNBA Championships, 18xAll-Star, 2xNBA Finals MVP, 1xMVP, 11xAll-NBA First teams, 9x All-Defensive first teams

Tim Duncan
– 5xNBA Championships, 15xAll-Star, 3xNBA Finals MVP, 2xMVPs, 10xAll NBA First teams, 8xAll-Defensive First teams.

Kevin Garnett
– 1 NBA Championship, 1xMVP, 15xAll-Star, 4xAll-NBA First teams, 9x All-Defensive First teams

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