The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined the class of 2020 this past weekend after postponing the event due to COVID-19. For the first time the enshrinement ceremony was not held at the Hall of Fame museum in Springfield, Mass. Due to Covid restrictions, the events took place at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Considered one of the strongest enshrinement classes in Hall of Fame history, The Class of 2020 included the late Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Eddie Sutton, Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbra Stevens and Patrick Baumann.
The weekend began with a press conference on Friday, May 14, 2021. Kevin Garnett, who is a nine time NBA All-Defensive First team select, expressed how Chicago helped shape and prepare him to jump straight to the NBA from high school. “I felt like coming from Chicago, I was able and prepared to play in the NBA after that. I had so much exposure to survival lessons. I like to always give Chicago the credit that it gave me that ‘IT’ that I needed to go from high school to the league.” Tamika Catchings echoed Chicago’s place in her career path saying, “To talk about Chicago, it’s legendary,” she proclaimed. “Going against Dorothy Gators and all of her teams, for me, it really was the opportunity of going up against such great players that helped me develop.” Tamika was the star of Stevenson high school in Lincolnshire, where she won Ms. Basketball honors as a sophomore en route to the 1995 IHSA-AA championship.
Also honored at the Basketball Hall of Fame was Chicagoan and Emmy Award-winning journalist, Mike Wilbon. He was awarded the Curt Gowdy Award for outstanding basketball writers and broadcasters. When asked which side of the city had better basketball players, the south side or the west side, Wilbon’s answer was clear, “Southside.” “Listen, I have friends of mine who are from the westside, Eddie Johnson, Mark Aguirre, Zeek. But we got Mo Cheeks and Derrick Rose.” He went on to say he does not separate the city in terms of basketball. “It’s all Chicago, and I would rank us right up there with any other city.”
The Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony took place on Saturday, May 15, 202. Honoree, Kobe Bryant, was on the minds of everyone. Each of the honorees mentioned the late Lakers Basketball star in their acceptance speeches. There was no mention of the tragic helicopter crashed that took Kobe Bryant, his13-year-old daughter “GiGi,” and seven others tragically in January 2020. Alternatively, the energy in the air was one of serenity and celebration for all who received such a meaningful honor. Vanesa Bryant, Kobe’s wife for 20 years, stood in his place during the ceremony. In her speech, she said, “Kobe was on a different level. He never took shortcuts when it came to the game of basketball. He gave it his all.” Michael Jordan inducted Kobe Bryant into the hall posthumously, but he did not give a speech at the event. Bryant and Jordan were close so it was fitting for him to support Vanessa Bryant at the induction ceremony…
The Basketball Hall of Fame was worth the wait. With the calamity brought on by 2020 and a once-in-a-century pandemic, it was great to see deserving athletes honored for their craft and the class of 2020 is one for the history books.
Find Contributing writer, Shermann Thomas, on social media @6figga_dilla.