What a Hall: The 2020 class is second to none

What a Hall: The 2020 class is second to none

The Hall has called three of the NBA’s most iconic figures to its doors, and although the circumstances have made it tough to celebrate them in full, it’s the most star-studded, decorated class that will be enshrined in Springfield in some time.

Kobe Bryant’s star shined brighter and longer than contemporaries Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, and dimmed lower through controversy. And through Bryant’s unfortunate death, his legacy has taken on a greater, more complete conversation — taking the place of what was sure to be a reflective, insightful and memorable headlining speech in September.

Even if these three players weren’t headed for induction in the same year, their stories and roads through basketball would be forever intertwined.

They’re so dissimilar with their approaches, demeanors and on-court attitudes, yet the common thread that bonded them was an uncommon thirst for excellence, individually and collectively, in the pursuit of championships and places in history.

Bryant was complicated, Garnett pioneering and Duncan freakishly steady. Bryant’s story is easier to compartmentalize and analyze, given his chase of Michael Jordan’s legacy, his quarrels with Shaquille O’Neal, and his association with the glamour franchise of the NBA. We’ll miss the way Bryant would’ve reflected on his journey, his path from prep star to pro prospect as he followed Garnett’s lead in skipping college, and the bread crumbs he acquired at each notable intersection of his basketball road that made him so compelling — and at the same time, so difficult to firmly fit in history.

The numerous eulogies from so many adoring competitors presented a love we don’t know Bryant felt during his time on Earth, and had circumstances been different, that love would’ve been on full display at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, with standing ovations, laughs and tears.

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headline a Basketball Hall of Fame class unlike any other. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

Garnett and Duncan were opposite sides of the same coin for so long, battling for the top power forward spot in the Western Conference for years while inheriting disparate circumstances.

Garnett’s fire warmed up so many cold nights in Minneapolis, importing himself into a football- and baseball-rich city to give it an identity. It allowed him to grow from a teen, whose passion belied his need for stability and loyalty, to an adult who understood how to lead, develop and, later on, create an unconventional championship culture in Boston.

Duncan’s consistency and groundhog-day mentality enabled many to overlook his own fire, because it didn’t look like Garnett’s often controlled rage — the same way Garnett’s nightly excellence was often obscured by a few antics or the fact he couldn’t win at the highest level like Duncan could.

Duncan was the perfect fit in San Antonio, much like Garnett was in Minneapolis and later, Boston. Duncan didn’t need seismic or volatile circumstances to thrive, and his words weren’t as aggressive as Garnett’s or as pointed as Bryant’s.

But his sentiment was just as powerful, if not more so. And his play was the anchor for not only five championships with the Spurs but yearly contention, a culture of accountability for all around him and respect from those who stood across from him.

It wasn’t his silence that made him more compelling or even more respected. Duncan was unwavering, never shook, even in the face of failure, even when Bryant’s elevator went to higher levels during memorable playoff battles.

Duncan raised his game following a quick apprenticeship with David Robinson, making for a smooth transition from one transcendent big to another, going from a player many thought was too polished, given his four-year stint at Wake Forest, to being the most remarkable big man since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

In fact, his consistency made it easy to discount his excellence because it looked like he couldn’t get to O’Neal’s level or Hakeem Olajuwon’s pinnacle. But he was just as great and took no backseat to any of them, with the years of 20 and 10 equaling or exceeding all of them.

Garnett and Duncan could’ve flip-flopped locales and neither would’ve been any less great. Perhaps Garnett would have more than one ring than his magical 2008 season in Boston, and maybe Duncan would’ve elevated the Timberwolves slightly higher than Garnett if he had the verve to stay through the necessary growth the franchise needed to undergo.

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Source : Yahoo Sports Link

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