On Tuesday, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the six new members who it would be enshrining. The honor has been awarded to an unquestioned group of incredible basketball talent.
Dwyane Wade, a three-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, headlines the class along with former Dallas Maverick forward Dirk Nowitzki. Those also to be honored include former NBA players Tony Parker and Pau Gasol. Former WNBA guard and current Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon, as well as San Antonio’s Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Coming out of Marquette University, many saw the skill that Wade possessed, but no one could have predicted the player that Wade would become. At his peak, Wade was 30 points per game scorer and the leader on a title-winning team. Wade secured his first ring at the ripe age of 24.
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Wade in South Beach four years later, Wade transitioned into a different player and leader. Wade would finish his career with thirteen All-Star appearances and eight All-NBA team selections. Lastly, a year ago, he was named to the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team.
What’s fascinating about this year’s class of inductees is how inextricably linked they are to each other.
Wade and Nowitzki’s careers crossed paths more than a few times, most notably in two NBA Finals. The seven-foot German big man stepped into the NBA as a gangly foreigner. Nowitzki’s first couple of years with the Mavericks didn’t produce much, except for an all-time photo-op with Steve Nash and frosted-tip hairdos.
Nowitzki broke out in his third year and never looked back. The Maverick stalwart’s 2006-07 season earned him MVP and first-team All-NBA honors. But an early playoff exit had people jumping off the bandwagon. For Nowitzki, the championship run in 2011 solidified his Hall-of-Fame status and distinguished him as one of the greatest power forwards ever. Nowitzki finished his career sixth in the all-time NBA scoring list with 31,560 points.
A Spurs Reunion
Parker and Popovich collaborated for over seventeen years as the point guard and coach. The two won four NBA championships together. Parker thrived in the Spurs system as the maestro of their offense. A six-time All-Star, Parker’s ability to attack the basket and distribute the basketball made him the ultimate dual-threat point guard.
An undervalued aspect of Parker’s career was his durability. For a six-foot-two-inch guard, Parker held up to the league’s physicality. Besides a quad injury in his final season for the Spurs, Parker was reliable. Parker is only behind Tim Duncan in career games as a Spur with 1198 games played.
The previously mentioned Popovich is the most winningest coach in NBA history. That fact alone confirms his Hall-of-Fame credentials. The resume becomes even more astounding when you factor in that Popovich has won five NBA titles and coached the USA basketball team to a gold medal in 2021.
Popovich’s influence goes well beyond his team’s success. Other organizations have garnered so much respect for Popovich’s coaching philosophy that they use him almost as a baseball farm system to develop other coaches. Popovich’s coaching tree has branches in every corner of the NBA. Similarly, Popovich’s grumpiness schtick is a cloak. Any fan who has seen Popovich interact with players, either his own or opposing ones, see his level of care and admiration for them.
The other Spurs disciple is Hammon. Hammon played sixteen seasons in the WNBA and was a six-time WNBA All-Star. Appearing in a combined 450 games for the San Antonio Stars and New York Liberty, Hammon was a prolific outside scoring threat. As she got older in her career, Hammon developed into a crafty facilitator. After her playing career Hammon entered coaching. Hired as an assistant coach under Popovich for the Spurs, Hammon cut her coaching chops. After eight seasons as an assistant, Hammon took the head coaching job for the Aces in the WNBA. In her first season, Hammon helped guide the Aces to a championship.
This class will induct three international players, including Gasol. Gasol’s professional basketball career is astounding. Starting as a phenom in Spain with his brother Marc Gasol, Gasol jumped into the league as a 21-year-old without skipping a beat. Gasol started his career with the Memphis Grizzlies. A blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Lakers sent Gasol to Hollywood, where he would team up with Kobe Bryant.
In his seven years with the Lakers, Gasol would help lead the team to two NBA titles. During that, he was selected as an All-Star three times. Gasol’s best performance as a Laker came in the 2010 Finals, where he was easily the best player. Gasol played until his late 30s. At age 35 with the Chicago Bulls, Pau was named an All-Star. In total, Gasol was a six-time All-Star. Gasol is also part of the 20,000-point and 11,000-rebound club.
More selections of the class of 2023 are to be announced this weekend during the Men’s Final Four games in Houston, TX. The Hall of Fame ceremony will occur in Springfield, MA, on August 12th.
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