Three greats of the game will be taking their rightful place alongside fellow basketball immortals.
The late Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are slated to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Announced Saturday afternoon, Bryant, Duncan and Garnett are, perhaps, the three greatest players from an in-between era of basketball after Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls retirement and before the rise of LeBron James as well as the subsequent flood of stars that we see today.
It was a period of basketball that many would rather forget, a time when the pace-and-space three-point bombardment style of today seemed like an impossibility, because the most effective way to win was through hard-nosed defence and milking the shot clock for all it was worth.
This was a trio that thrived in this environment and emerged as legends.
Here’s a quick look at some of the highlights of their careers by the numbers.
(Photo Credit: Darren Abate/AP)
Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others tragically lost their lives in a helicopter crash in late January of this year.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment and honour, and we’re extremely proud of him,” said Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, during the Hall of Fame announcement TV broadcast. “Obviously we wish that he was here with us to celebrate, but it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him and there’s some solace knowing that we’re going to be a part of the 2020 Hall of Fame class.”
The accomplishments of Bryant both on and off the court were vast. Here’s a look at some of them.
1: Gianna, Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter who lost her life alongside him in that helicopter life wanted to be the No. 1 overall draft pick in the WNBA draft. Bryant wanted to make this dream come true for her as well. Thus, he created the Mamba Sports Academy and took particular interest in coaching her girls’ basketball team.
We’ll never know if Gianna would’ve accomplished her dreams, but the fruit that will bear from the seeds Bryant planted by founding this academy will surely be exciting to monitor in the future.
8, 24: Bryant is the only player in NBA history to have two numbers retired by the same team. The Nos. 8 and 24 reflect the two halves of Bryant’s career, with the former being when he first broke into the league and quickly rose to prominence, winning three consecutive titles alongside Shaquille O’Neal, and the latter when he changed his persona to “The Black Mamba,” capturing two more championships with Pau Gasol as his leading sidekick.
18: This is the number of all-star appearances Bryant made during his illustrious career. Second all-time only to the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 19.
81: On Jan. 22, 2006, Bryant scored 81 points in a game against the Toronto Raptors, the second-most points ever recorded by a single player in a single game in NBA history, behind only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point effort in 1962.
This is indicative of just how prolific a scorer Bryant was. The 33,643 points he racked up ranks fourth all-time and the six career 60-plus games he recorded are the second most as well.
(Photo Credit: David J. Phillip/AP)
Duncan’s lived virtually the perfect basketball career. Beginning in college when he was named the consensus national player of the year during his senior year at Wake Forest in 1997, he was then selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft and would go on to win the Rookie of the Year Award, launching a remarkable career with the San Antonio Spurs, with whom he now works as an assistant coach.
“It’s kind of the end of the journey here,” Duncan said on the broadcast. “It was an incredible career that I enjoyed so much. To call it a dream come true wouldn’t do this any justice, because I never dreamt that I would be at this point. I played the game, enjoyed the game, loved what I did and to be here now with the guys that I’ll be put in the Hall of Fame with. It’s an amazing class.”
2: There have only been 13 multiple-time MVP winners in league history and Duncan is one of them, winning back-to-back honours in 2002 and 2003.
3: Like Bryant, Duncan won five championships during his career, but he is only one of four players in NBA history to have won three Finals MVPs. Jordan is the only player in NBA history who has won more than three, with an astonishing six.
106.34: Duncan is one of the greatest defensive players of all time, a moniker proven by his record-setting 15 all-defensive team selections (eight first and seven second).
But to put how great his defensive ability was into greater context you need only look at this number, which is the amount of defensive win shares (a metric that estimates the number of wins a player produces for his team because of his defensive ability) he accrued during his career, a figure second all-time only to Bill Russell.
.710: Duncan was so dominant during his 19 seasons that this was the winning percentage of the Spurs while he was playing, a mark that was the best among the four major North American sports during this period.
(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson, File/AP)
A force of nature, Garnett was intensity made flesh during his 21-season career. Renowned for his trash talk on the court, Garnett could more than back it up as one of the most versatile big men the game had ever seen at the time when he first broke in and is a blueprint for the modern-day “unicorn” big as we know them today.
“It’s the culmination,” Garnett said on the broadcast. “You put countless hours into this, you dedicate yourself to a craft, you take no days off, you play through injury, you play through demise, you play through obstacles, you give no excuses for anything, you love, learn, build. Like, this is the culmination.
“All of those hours of everything that you ever put up for, this is what you do it all for. To be called a Hall of Famer means everything.”
4: Garnett arguably spent the best days of his career in Minnesota, meaning there’s a good chance many didn’t get to see the best days of his career, but to put how great he was into proper context you need only look at this number here.
This is the number of players who have managed to win both a Defensive Player of the Year Award and a league MVP in their career. Garnett is one among this quartet, which also includes Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson.
7: That’s how many players the Boston Celtics traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in order to acquire Garnett. More specifically, the Celtics traded Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair and two first-round picks that would become Wayne Ellington and Jonny Flynn.
1995: Garnett was drafted in 1995 with the No. 5 overall pick by the Timberwolves, but the circumstances of his selection situation was more unique than most. This is because Garnett became the first player since Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby in 1975 to be taken in the NBA draft straight out of high school. This opened the gates for the likes of Bryant, James and others to follow in his footsteps.
∞: If Garnett will be remembered for anything, it will be for reminding us all after he won the championship in 2008 that “anything is possible.”