“Coast to Coast” is a column by Jarrod Castillo about basketball.
The Basketball Hall of Fame has had many amazing classes of inductees over the years but it’s never seen a class like this one. Never has a Hall of Fame class included three once-in-a-lifetime generational talents along with an already remarkable assortment of accomplished players and coaches.
That said, here’s a career retrospective of the headliners of the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020: Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and, of course, Kobe Bryant.
Nicknamed “The Big Fundamental,” Duncan embodied what it meant to do things the right way — he came to practice early and stayed late. Most importantly, he was open to learning from esteemed San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
That attitude allowed him to play to the best of his ability during his 19-year career (all with the Spurs) while setting a precedent that all players followed. Duncan understood that being grilled by Popovich was never personal; it was meant to make him the best player he could be.
That’s why Pop and Duncan have such a close relationship, and it showed in the results — under Popovich, the 1997-98 Rookie of the Year became a two-time NBA MVP, a three-time NBA Finals MVP, a five-time NBA champion and a 15-time All-Defensive, All-NBA and All-Star selection who was named the 2000 NBA All-Star Game MVP.
Even in his later years, Duncan contributed to a Spurs squad that was a perennial title contender. With Duncan leading the way, the Spurs never missed the playoffs or won fewer than 50 games in any of the 19 seasons that he played.
With the game moving away from the post and toward the 3-point line, it’s safe to say that there will never be another player like Duncan in the NBA. That is why he is widely considered to be the greatest power forward of all time, and it was only a matter of time before he took his rightful place in the Hall of Fame as one of the top 10 players in NBA history.
Much like Duncan, Garnett’s resume is littered with accolades, as he was a 15-time All-Star, winning the All-Star Game MVP award in 2003. He was also a 12-time All-Defensive selection and took home the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award. On top of that, he was the 2004 NBA MVP, a nine-time All-NBA selection, the 1996 Rookie of the Year and a member of the championship-winning Boston Celtics squad in 2008.
During his prime years in Minnesota, Garnett was the definition of an all-around player, averaging 20.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.7 blocks. Because of his dominance, he led Minnesota to the playoffs in eight of his 12 seasons there and ranks top five in many categories for the Timberwolves.
Garnett finally won a championship in 2008 after he was traded to the Celtics to join Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, making up Boston’s “Big Three.” He spent the next six years there, helping the Celtics reach the Finals again in 2010 and become a playoff fixture in the East.
Although Garnett’s last three years in the league were forgettable — he averaged 5.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks per game — his time in Minnesota cemented him as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
If Garnett is the greatest Timberwolf of all time, then it seems just as fitting to call the late Kobe Bryant the greatest Laker of all time.
Bryant’s impact on and off the court still holds weight today — there are dozens of players in the NBA that have gone to Bryant to improve and legions of fans around the world that wear his sneakers and jersey.
On the court, Bryant’s accolades are well-known, most notably his five NBA championships (including two Finals MVP awards) and 18 All-Star appearances (he also won the All-Star MVP four times). He was also a 12-time All-Defensive selection, 15-time All-NBA selection and the 2008 NBA MVP.
Off the court, Bryant was a devoted father, spending more time with his daughters after his retirement. He also won an Oscar for “Dear Basketball,” his ode to the game he loved his entire life.
Bryant was also a staunch supporter of the WNBA, as he was often seen courtside watching WNBA games with his daughter Gianna. At 13-years-old, Gianna was poised to take Bryant’s mantle as the next “Black Mamba” (Bryant’s moniker in the latter part of his career) when she got older, earning herself the nickname “Mambacita.”
Bryant’s untimely death sent shockwaves around the sports world, but his legacy will live on in his rightful place in the Hall of Fame among the greatest to ever play.
In all, the 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class was already stacked, but the inclusion of Duncan, Garnett and Bryant makes it the best class in history. We probably won’t see another class as accomplished and as successful as this one.
“Coast to Coast” runs every other Friday.