Also on the ballot for the first time: Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Dwyane Wade. They were all expected; Popovich was the biggest surprise on the list, since it’s never been clear until now when he would allow the Hall to list him as a candidate.
“It will be an unbelievable moment, really,” Nowitzki said. “I mean, to top everything that has happened here the last couple years and words and accolades that have come my way, that will be the ultimate … to be enshrined, hopefully, with the greatest in our game ever.”
Also on the nominee list for the first time: the 1976 U.S. Olympic women’s team, the 1982 Cheyney University women’s basketball team that became the first from a historically Black college or university to play for an NCAA title, and Miami coach Jim Larrañaga — who recently won his 700th game and took George Mason on a historic run to the Final Four in 2006.
The finalists from the North American and Women’s committees for the Hall of Fame will be announced at NBA All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City on Feb. 17. The full class of Hall of Famers for 2023 will be announced at the NCAA Final Four in Houston on April 1, and enshrinement weekend will be Aug. 11 and 12 in Connecticut and the Hall’s home in Springfield, Massachusetts.
It could be one of the most star-studded classes ever, particularly if Parker and Popovich go in together. Popovich has coached San Antonio to five NBA titles, four of them with Parker as the team’s point guard. The other two legs of the Spurs’ Big 3 from that championship era — Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili — are already Hall of Famers.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will be an assistant coach on USA Basketball’s team that, if it qualifies, will play in the World Cup next summer in the Philippines. The induction ceremony will take place shortly before the start of the tournament, and Spoelstra is already vowing to take a quick break from his duties on Steve Kerr’s U.S. staff and be in Massachusetts for the big event.
“I can’t wait for it because we all know how Dwyane is,” Spoelstra said. “He’s going to throw a party that’s going to be one for the ages.”
The 1976 U.S. women’s team and the Cheyney team will be considered by the women’s veterans direct-elect committee. There are also 12 candidates that will be reviewed by the international direct-elect committee, 26 candidates to be considered by the contributor direct-elect committee, and 44 candidates for the veterans direct-elect committee — including longtime NBA coach Paul Silas, who died earlier this month.
Godofredo A. Vásquez
Commissioner Adam Silver has made clear, especially after the league went into the 2020 season restart bubble at Walt Disney World because of the pandemic, that the NBA needs to do even more to pay tribute to its greatest players — particularly some of the league’s Black players from a generation or two ago, whose stories may not necessarily resonate among younger fans of today.
Rebranding and redesigning is not an easy process, particularly in a league that considers itself to be steeped with tradition.
It was not a coincidence that the six new division championship trophies introduced late last season were named for Black pioneers of the game — Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Wayne Embry, Earl Lloyd, Willis Reed, Sam Jones and Chuck Cooper.
“I know that what we do in this league is important symbolically, not just for sports but for other industries, and people watch us all around the world,” Silver said at last season’s NBA Finals.
No, this is not a conflict for Jordan even though he owns the Charlotte Hornets. Jordan rarely enters the spotlight anymore and picks his spots very carefully; he did not want this trophy to be in his likeness, did not speak out about Tuesday’s announcement and rarely offers public comment on any topic.
The MVP trophy tends to be presented by the commissioner; it wouldn’t seem likely that Jordan would be called upon to do so, even though there is no rule — tampering-related or otherwise — that would prevent it.
The NBA asked Bill Russell to present the NBA Finals MVP trophy that bears his name and he did for many years, until the pandemic and his health prevented him from continuing that tradition. Russell died earlier this year.
It’s a lot. There’s the Larry O’Brien (NBA champions), the Jordan (MVP), the Russell (NBA Finals MVP), Red Auerbach (coach of the year), Joe Dumars (sportsmanship), Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (conference finals MVP’s), Kobe Bryant (All-Star MVP), and the six divisional trophies.
There’s also a slew of new or rebranded ones announced Tuesday -- Hakeem Olajuwon (defensive player of the year), John Havlicek (sixth man), Wilt Chamberlain (rookie), and George Mikan (most improved). A new trophy this year is the Clutch Player of the Year, named for “Mr. Clutch” himself, Jerry West.
“There are few greater thrills as a basketball player than coming through for your teammates and fans when they need it most,” West said. “This new trophy will be awarded to the player who best delivers in those moments.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the league’s social justice champion trophy bearing his name, David Robinson the NBA Community Assist Monthly Award one, and Bob Lanier has the Community Assist season-long trophy.
Godofredo A. Vásquez
This wasn’t one or two people. The league formed a group of about 20 people, from at least a half-dozen different departments, to meet and decide how to change the trophies and in some cases the namesake elements.
The process took several months, the league said.
It doesn’t seem right that David Stern — the league’s commissioner for 30 years, Silver’s predecessor and mentor and one of the people who basically helped saved the league from financial peril in the 1980’s — doesn’t have a trophy bearing his name.
If the league adds an in-season tournament, and there are plans in place to have one possibly as soon as next season, Stern would seem like a candidate for that trophy.
Eric Christian Smith
San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich watches from the sideline during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)