Kobe Bryant looks on a the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 on Aug. 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.
To the surprise of no one, the late Kobe Bryant, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, leads the all-star class of 2020 inductees to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Saturday.
Bryant’s career was nothing short of remarkable, and even before Saturday’s announcement Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo said that he would be a part of this year’s class.
An iconic figure for the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant was a five-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP and a season MVP. He also made his mark with Team USA, averaging 15.0 points per game in leading “The Redeem Team” to an 8-0 record and a gold medal at the Olympic Games Beijing. He came back in 2012 and this time averaged 12.1 points per game as the U.S. again went undefeated and won an Olympic gold medal.
Bryant had remained involved in the game after his retirement, including as an advocate for women’s basketball. Last fall, he attended the final weekend of the World Cup as an ambassador for FIBA.
In January, Bryant and eight others, including his daughter Gianna, were killed in a helicopter crash.
All eight nominees for the 2020 Hall of Fame class were selected, and Bryant was one of six Olympic gold medalists in the group. Tamika Catchings, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kim Mulkey and coach Rudy Tomjanovich also earned gold medals with Team USA.
The Class of 2020 will be inducted at a ceremony on Aug. 29 at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Catchings is a four-time Olympic gold medalist who has played in every Games from 2004 to 2016 and is one of only a handful of players to have won an Olympic gold medal, world championship gold medal, NCAA title and WNBA championship. She won her first world title with the U.S. in her international debut in 2002 and won her second in 2010. At the 2012 Olympics she was part of the starting five and led the team in rebounds and steals. She announced her retirement after winning fourth gold medal at the age of 37 in Rio. In 14 years in the WNBA she was a 10-time All-Star and is the all-time leader in steals.
Garnett and Duncan were best known as defining big men of their generation in the NBA, though both had successful runs with Team USA earlier in their careers.
Longtime Minnesota Timberwolves star Garnett was a member of the 2000 Olympic team that won the gold medal, and he averaged 10.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in Sydney.
Duncan, a five-time NBA champ with the San Antonio Spurs, got his start with the U.S. national team started in 1999, when he averaged 12.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as the team went 10-0 to qualify for the Sydney Games. An injury kept him from playing in the Olympics that year, but Duncan once again helped the U.S. qualify for the Olympics in 2004. He did play that year, where he averaged 12.9 points and 9.1 rebounds in helping Team USA win a bronze medal.
Five-time All-Star forward and longtime Houston Rockets head coach Tomjanovich, meanwhile, also has national team ties. He coached the U.S. men’s team, which did not include NBA players because of contract negotiations, at the 1998 FIBA World Championship and won a bronze medal, then coached the 2000 Olympic team to an 8-0 record and a gold medal. He also served as a director of scouting for the U.S. men’s program.
Tomjanovich was the only coach whose resume included multiple NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal who was not in the Hall of Fame.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, also inducted in the coaching category, has the distinction of being the first person in NCAA history, male or female, to win a national title as a player, assistant coach and head coach. She also has a rich history playing for the U.S. women’s national team, from winning the gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1983, the silver medal at the 1983 world championship and eventually the gold medal at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984, in which Mulkey averaged 5.3 points per game and helped the team go 6-0.
Longtime Arkansas and Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton was also named a member of the 2020 class as a coach and longtime FIBA executive Patrick Baumann enters as a contributor. Women’s college coaching Barbara Stevens, who became the fifth women’s basketball coach to reach 1,000 wins, will also be inducted as a coach.