Kobe Bryant was one of eight finalists announced Friday as candidates for enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, a decision that came as absolutely no surprise in his first year of eligibility.
Joining Bryant as first-time finalists for the Hall: 15-time All-Star Tim Duncan, fellow 15-time All-Star Kevin Garnett and 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings.
The other finalists have all been to this point previously: Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, five-time Division II women’s coach of the year Barbara Stevens of Bentley, and four-time national men’s college coach of the year Eddie Sutton.
This year’s enshrinement class will be announced on April 4 at college basketball’s Final Four in Atlanta. The induction ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts is Aug. 29.
Bryant was an 18-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and is the No. 4 scorer in league history. He, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, died in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Jan. 26.
“Hall of Famer is something you don’t really think about, you don’t really dream about,” Garnett said. “It just happens. ... This is one of the more overwhelming situations I’ve ever been in.”
Catchings is also a past WNBA MVP, won a national championship under coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee and was a four-time All-American with the Lady Vols.
“I’m just so blessed,” Catchings said. “I’m so thankful.”
The Hall also announced its Curt Gowdy Media Award recipients for this year: sportswriter and commentator Michael Wilbon, who spent three decades at The Washington Post and now is with ESPN, and longtime NBA play-by-play commentator Mike Breen.
“You don’t even dream about stuff like this,” Breen said.
A pair of new Gowdy awards were also unveiled. Turner’s “Inside The NBA” crew of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal were announced as the first winners in the Transformative Media category. And longtime sportscaster Jim Gray was the first recipient of the Insight Media Award.
Also, the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded posthumously to Tim Nugent, the founder of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.