(AFP) — Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant headed a star-studded list of honorees named to basketball’s 2020 Hall of Fame yesterday.
The Los Angeles Lakers icon, who died in a helicopter crash in January, was named alongside nine honorees who will be enshrined at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on August 29.
Joining Bryant in the sport’s pantheon are three-time NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan, 15-time NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett, two-time NBA champion Coach Rudy Tomjanovich, and four-time Olympic medallist Tamika Catchings.
Other inductees include three-time NCAA National Championship Coach Kim Mulkey, College Basketball Coach Barbara Stevens and longtime FIBA executive Patrick Baumann, who died of a heart attack in 2018 at the age of 41.
“The Class of 2020 is undoubtedly one of the most historic of all time and the talent and social influence of these nine honorees is beyond measure,” said John Doleva, chief executive of the Hall of Fame.
“In 2020, the basketball community has suffered the unimaginable loss of iconic figures Commissioner David Stern and Kobe Bryant, as well as the game itself due to COVID-19.
“We have also banded together like never before in appreciation of the game and those who have made it the uniting force it is today.”
The basketball world was left stunned by Bryant’s death earlier this year, with the crash also claiming the life of his daughter Gianna and seven others.
The NBA season has also been left in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic, with the campaign halted indefinitely last month and the league currently on hiatus.
Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, told ESPN her late husband’s posthumous elevation to the Hall of Fame ranked as one of his greatest career milestones.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment and honour, and we’re extremely proud of him,” Vanessa Bryant said.
“Every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to be here,” she added.
Lakers team owner Jeanie Buss saluted Bryant in a statement that praised the star’s fierce competitiveness, work ethic and drive.”
“Those qualities helped Kobe lead us to five titles — and have now brought him to the Hall of Fame, where he will be enshrined with the greatest to have ever played the game,” Buss said.
“No one deserves it more.”