Basketball Hall of Fame elects its best class ever in 2023 with Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, others
Michael Jordan, John Stockton and David Robinson formed an impressive Basketball Hall of Fame class in 2009. Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Tamika Catchings in 2020 was special. Ray Allen, Maurice Cheeks, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Katie Smith in 2018 formed an amazing collective résumé. And don’t forget Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Jerry Lucas in 1980.
But the 2023 class announced Saturday is the Basketball Hall of Fame’s best ever.
This class – top to bottom with its success, depth and impact, especially internationally – is unmatched: Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich, Becky Hammon and the 1976 U.S. women's Olympic team headline the class, which will be inducted Aug. 12 in Springfield, Mass.
That’s 15 NBA championships, one regular-season MVP, three Finals MVPs, two Olympic gold medals, two Olympic bronze medals, one Olympic silver medal, one FIBA World Cup gold, four Eurobasket gold medals, three Eurobasket MVPs, three coach of the year awards, six WNBA All-Star appearances, four All-WNBA selections, four of the NBA’s all-time greatest 75 players, one of the WNBA’s top 25 all-time greatest players and one of the NBA’s all-time best coaches.
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They dominated an era of pro basketball.
Nowitzki is the NBA’s best international player, and he helped alter the perception of what a big man could do and created a market where NBA teams devoted more resources to European scouting in an effort to find the next Dirk.
Nowitzki played his entire 21-year career with the Dallas Mavericks, and at 7-feet, he didn’t limit his game to scoring around the basket. He had a great, fundamentally perfect jump shot, utilizing it with his mid-range and 3-point game. He never led the league in scoring but through the prime of his career, he scored 25 points a game.
Nowitzki finished with 31,560 points, sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He was a 12-time All-NBA selection, a 14-time All-Star, 2007 MVP, 2011 champion and 2011 Finals MVP.
Playing two seasons at Marquette, Wade turned into one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history, with Kobe Bryant and Jerry West. Wade was a great scorer, leading the league in points per game in 2008-09. He helped Miami to a title in 2006 and was named Finals MVP. He won two more titles with LeBron James in Miami. A 13-time All-Star and eight-time All-NBA choice, Wade also made the NBA’s 75 greatest players of all-time list.
Wade wasn’t a great 3-point shooter but was difficult to stop with his mid-range shot and drives to the rim. He defended, rebounded, passed and was a great shot blocker for his size. Teaming up with James proved to be a seminal moment in today’s NBA in terms how teams are shaped and how players try to control their career.
The San Antonio Spurs selected Parker with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2001 draft. No one is expecting a late first-round pick to turn into a Hall of Famer. But the Spurs’ front office had a knack for spotting and developing talent. As the point guard, Parker guided Tim Duncan-led Spurs teams to four titles (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014) and was Finals MVP in 2007, averaging 24.5 points, five rebounds, 3.3 assists and shooting 57.1% on 3-pointers in a sweep against Cleveland.
Parker also turned France an into a power in international basketball with four medals, including gold, in Eurobasket, and while he wasn’t on the 2020 French Olympic team that took silver, his influence on a generation of French players is undeniable.
Like Nowitzki, Gasol was a big man who didn’t need to be planted in the low post to be effective. He could play on the perimeter and exceled as a playmaker and scorer in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning NBA titles in 2009 and 2010. He was a six-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA selection.
Over the course of two decades, Gasol helped turn Spain into the second-best national team in the world. With Gasol on the team, Spain won two silver medals and bronze at the Olympics, three gold, two silver and two bronze medals at Eurobasket and one gold at the FIBA World Cup. Like Parker in France, Gasol’s importance to Spanish basketball cannot be overstated.
Hammon had a stellar college career at Colorado State, earning All-America honors three times. She went undrafted in the 1999 WNBA draft and started her career with the New York Liberty as a backup. Hammon became a starter and made six All-Star teams, four All-WNBA teams and is one the of WNBA’s all-time great passers.
She also had a prolific overseas career, mostly in Russia. She generated controversy in 2008 when she became a Russian citizen and played for Russia at the 2008 Olympics, earning a bronze medal. She also won a Eurobasket silver medal with Russia in 2009. That controversy has eased as Hammon coached in the NBA as an assistant and now the WNBA as head coach of the Las Vegas Aces.
When Popovich fired Bob Hill and made himself coach of the Spurs in 1996, there was no indication a dynasty in San Antonio was about to begin. But with good fortune in the draft and an organizational eye for talent, the Spurs became just that, and Popovich was the coach of five Spurs championships, utilizing four Hall of Famers: David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Parker.
Popovich is a three-time coach of the year winner, probably could’ve won two more and is regarded as one of the best coaches in NBA history. Using great defenders and adapting to his players’ offensive skills – even if it went against his core principles such as shooting more 3s – Popovich became the league’s all-time winningest coach with 1,363 victories.
The 1976 U.S. women's Olympic team
Playing at the Olympics for the first time, the U.S. women won silver with a team featuring Ann Meyers, Lusia Harris, Nancy Lieberman and Patricia Head (Pat Summit). It was a seminal moment for women's basketball, and that team's impact had and continues to have an impact on girls' and women's basketball. The U.S. women have dominated international basketball, too, winning nine of 11 possible gold medals at the Olympics and 11 golds in 17 FIBA World Cup appearances.
Also elected into the Hall
Former Purdue men's coach Gene Keady, who was named Big Ten coach of the year seven times and national coach of the year five times.
Gary Blair, the former Texas A&M women's coach, won a NCAA title in 2011 and reached two Final Fours.
David Hixon coached Amherst College men's team for 42 seasons and finished his career with 826 wins, two Division III national championships, two DIII coach of the year awards.
Gene Bess amassed a record 1,300 victories and two junior college national men's titles at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Jim Valvano coached North Carolina State men's team to an improbable victory against Houston in the 1983 national championship game.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Basketball Hall of Fame 2023 class includes Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade