The much-anticipated class of 2020 was finally enshrined in a ceremony at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Boasting arguably the most star-studded enshrinees in history, the nine-person class was headlined by Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. They were joined by Tamika Catchings, Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens and Patrick Baumann.
All eyes were going to be on Bryant in this ceremony. The Los Angeles Lakers icon was voted into the Hall of Fame two months after his death in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020.
Bryant's widow, Vanessa, took the stage to speak on his behalf.
“There will never be anyone like Kobe," Vanessa said. "He was one of a kind. ... Kobe’s personal stats speak for themself. Kobe never took shortcuts when it came to basketball."
Natalia Bryant, Kobe and Vanessa's oldest daughter, wore her father's Hall of Fame jacket and ring as part of the ceremony ahead of the enshrinement:
Garnett led off the ceremony by talking about playing against Bryant and Duncan during their legendary careers:
Known for his stoic demeanor on the basketball court, Duncan allowed himself to open up while delivering his speech. The San Antonio Spurs legend started by paying tribute to his parents:
After Garnett's tribute during his speech, Duncan returned the favor in honoring his fellow superstars and the teammates who helped him achieve so much success:
Before taking his final bow, Duncan thanked Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich for the impact he made on his life:
Stevens is one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. She retired in June at the age of 66 after a 43-year career that included a 34-season stint at Bentley in Division II.
In 2018, Stevens became the fifth coach in college basketball history to reach the 1,000-win mark. She was named the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award five times and the 2013-14 Division II national title.
Sutton went 806-239 in 37 seasons as a head coach at five different schools. He became the first coach to lead four different programs to the NCAA tournament. The Oklahoma State alum went to the Final Four three different times, including twice at his alma mater in 1995 and 2004.
One month after the Hall of Fame announcement last year, Sutton died at the age of 84 on May 23. His son, Sean Sutton, spoke on his father's behalf at the ceremony.
“My dad loved every coaching stop from Tulsa Central High School to Oklahoma State. ... My dad’s life had hills and valleys. He did not run from it. He faced it head on," Sutton said.
After one of the greatest careers of any player in WNBA history, Catchings joined the ranks of basketball's immortals on Saturday. The Indiana Fever legend was named an All-Star in 10 of her 15 seasons, was named MVP in 2011 and Finals MVP in 2012.
Catchings used her speech to share a story about how she found her way by playing basketball.
Like Bryant and Sutton, Baumann was a posthumous inductee in this year's class. He died from a heart attack in 2018 at the age of 51.
From 1994 until his death, Baumann worked as a FIBA executive. He was promoted to secretary general of the organization in 2003 and helped grow the sport's youth sector and helped launch 3x3 basketball.
Tomjanovich's name was synonymous with Houston Rockets basketball for 34 seasons between his time as a player and coach. He was originally drafted by the franchise in 1971 when they were still based in San Diego.
After an 11-year playing career that included five All-Star appearances, Tomjanovich transitioned into the coaching ranks. He spent 10 seasons as an assistant under Bill Fitch and Don Chaney, the Michigan alum was named head coach in February 1992.
Tomjanovich is the Rockets' all-time leader with 503 wins and 51 playoff victories. He led the franchise to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995.
Mulkey, who is getting settled in her new job as LSU women's basketball head coach after 21 seasons at Baylor, has long been regarded as one of the best college coaches.
Prior to Mulkey's hiring in 2000, the Bears never made the NCAA women's tournament. They made the tournament 18 times during her run, winning three national titles and becoming the first men's or women's team to finish a season 40-0 when they did it in 2011-12.
Bryant, Duncan and Garnett were three of the biggest stars of their generation. They combined to win 11 championships during their playing days.
Catchings, Mulkey and Stevens have been instrumental in raising the profile of women's basketball around the world.
Sutton and Tomjanovich have resumes that can match any coach from their eras. Baumann helped transform basketball into a global game that is played professionally in 213 countries around the world.
Even though it took longer than expected to hold the ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 class finally got its much-deserved moment of glory.