Changing of the guard: Hall of Fame announces 2018 finalists

By Robbie Weinstein
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES – As the NBA continues trending toward small ball, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s 13 finalists for 2018 include some of the league’s all-time great guards.

Two-time MVP Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Ray Allen highlighted the list as first-time finalists announced Saturday at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, along with fellow 2000s stars Grant Hill and Chris Webber. The Hall of Fame will officially announce its Class of 2018 on March 31 at the NCAA Men’s Final Four in San Antonio. Finalists must earn at least 18 of 24 votes from the Hall’s Honors Committee to be inducted.

Guards Nash, Kidd and Allen have a combined 28 All-Star appearances alone, while forwards Hill and Webber starred in the league after completing two of the best college careers ever. Each of the guards helped push the NBA away from the grinding style of the 1990s, and Allen remains the league’s all-time leader in three-point field goals.

Four-time WNBA champion Tina Thompson headlined the women’s side, along with three-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith and Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey.

Other finalists included four-time NBA All-Star Maurice Cheeks, former Maryland head coach Lefty Driesell, two-time NBA champion head coach Rudy Tomjanovich, former referee Hugh Evans and the 10-time AAU champion Wayland Baptist University women’s team.

“There’s a lot of depth,” said USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo. “This is a really good class from top to bottom, and it’s going to be very difficult in terms of the Honors Committee.”

Multiple attendees noted the Hall’s desire for diversity among its finalists. Although the announcement took place at NBA All-Star Weekend, the number of women being honored stood out.

“In all my time I’ve been here at the Hall, I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many women’s names called to potentially be honored to come in,” said former USA Olympian and current Sacramento Kings assistant coach Nancy Lieberman. “When you focus in on the two — Katie Smith and Tina Thompson — I think they’re winners, I think of character, of people who lifted people around them and they just embodied what this game is and where it’s come from.”

ESPN’s Doris Burke and NBA photographer Andy Bernstein also received the Hall’s 2018 Curt Gowdy Media Awards for their contributions to basketball media. Both have helped capture some of the seminal moments in NBA history, particularly NBA champions’ post-Finals celebrations.

“That’s the one thing the Hall has done,” Colangelo said. “We cover the whole spectrum in terms of the game of basketball.”

Photo at top: NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg announces the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2018 finalists Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Robbie Weinstein/MEDILL REPORTS)