This summer was going to be a celebration of three of the best players in NBA history, three champions who played against each other, who shared an era and fought for prominence. Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant.
But this year’s Hall of Fame finalist announcement required a darker tone. It opened with the recognition of the people that the league had lost this season, particularly Bryant and former commissioner David Stern.
When Bryant’s name was announced, the Hall of Fame member sitting on the stage behind the host inclined his head or looked down.
“Surely we wish he were here today, Kobe Bryant,” Matt Winer said in announcing the inevitable.
This year’s class also included the 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings, Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, who won NCAA championships as a player, assistant and head coach , former Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich, who won two championships with the Houston Rockets, former NCAA Division II coach Barbara Stevens and former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton.
Bryant’s former teammate Gary Payton was among those attending the Hall of Fame. Although most of the players do not attend the announcement of their class, Garnett sat in the front row of the room, next to Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia, who was recognized at the beginning of the press conference. When his name was announced, Garnett got up to recognize the audience and almost tripped when he sat down.