Kobe Bryant, the former Los Angeles Lakers star whose death last month continues to cast a pall over the NBA, is among eight finalists announced Friday for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Bryant, who was 41, retired from the NBA in 2016 after spending his entire 20-year playing career with the Lakers. He won five championship, was an 18-time All-Star and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008. A dynamic and hypercompetitive player, he also helped the league fill the void that was left by Michael Jordan’s retirement.
Former NBA stars Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will join Bryant on the ballot, while Tamika Catchings, a 10-time WNBA. All-Star, was nominated by the women’s screening committee.
Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Eddie Sutton and Barbara Stevens are finalists as coaches.
To gain induction, finalists need a minimum of 18 of 24 votes from the honors committee, which is made up of Hall of Famers, basketball executives and administrators, and members of the news media. The class of 2020 will be announced in April.
Mike Breen, the longtime play-by-play voice for the New York Knicks on the MSG Network and the lead voice for NBA broadcasts on ESPN and ABC, won the Curt Gowdy Media Award for electronic media. Michael Wilbon, an ESPN analyst and former sports writer and columnist for The Washington Post, won the award for print.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Jan. 26. He was widely expected to be on the ballot even before his death, which prompted an outpouring of grief across the country. A public memorial service is planned for Feb. 24 at Staples Center, where the Lakers play their home games.
Bryant’s death continues to affect players from around the league, including LeBron James, whose long relationship with Bryant had developed into more of a friendship over the last two seasons. James has pledged to continue Bryant’s “legacy” this season on the Lakers.
Duncan, one of the premier centers in NBA history, was a five-time champion and two-time MVP with the San Antonio Spurs. Garnett, considered one of the greatest power forwards of all time, became the first high school player to jump directly to the NBA in 20 years when he entered the draft in 1995. Garnett’s early success with the Minnesota Timberwolves helped embolden Bryant to make the same leap out of high school the following year, and he soon emerged as one of the league’s most dominant — and popular — figures.