Bryant’s presence felt at Hall of Fame Announcement

By Zoe Collins Rath
Medill Reports

The Basketball Hall of Fame finalists were announced Friday, but the typically joyous occasion was somber when recalling the memory of Class of 2020 nominee Kobe Bryant.

“We wish he were here today,” said NBA TV host Matt Winer, who emceed the announcement.

Bryant was one of nine people that died in a helicopter crash in late January, including his daughter. It is his first year to be nominated for the Hall of Fame and “the entire basketball community is still grieving” the passings of Bryant, Hall of Fame Coach Morgan Wooten and former NBA Commissioner David Stern, Winer said.

Due to the heartbreaking events of Bryant’s and Stern’s deaths, the  Hall of Fame election committees suspended their nominating process for the year. There would be no “direct elect” committees: the early African-American Pioneers, Veterans, Contributors and Women’s Veterans. According to Winer, the changes came from the Hall of Fame wanting to focus on the inductees this year and allow  future direct electees recognition commensurate with their stature.

“Considering this year’s unique circumstances and the prominence of the potential 2020 class,” Winer said.

The domination of the nominees is clear. Alongside Bryant are other NBA legends in Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics and Tamika Catchings of the WNBA.

Garnett and Catchings were in attendance and shared their feelings of being nominated.

” Of course, as you get older, you never dreamed of this opportunity,” Catchings said.

“The Hall of Fame is something that you don’t really think about, don’t really dream about; it just happens,”  Garnett said. “It is a tremendous honor. It’s one of the more overwhelming situations I’ve ever been in.”

Northwestern’s Michael Wilbon, a 1980 Medill graduate, will enter the Hall of Fame as the 2020 Curt Gowdy award winner for print media. ESPN and New York Knicks broadcaster Mike Breen was the winner for electronic media. Two new media awards were announced Friday: the Transformative Media award went to TNT’s “Inside the NBA” and the Insight Award went to longtime sideline reporter Jim Gray.

The finalists were announced today but official class of inductees will be announced in April during the Final Four in Atlanta.

Photo at top: Members of the Basketball Hall of Fame join the new finalists and media award winners who were announced at a news conference Friday. (Zoe Collins Rath/MEDILL)