Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan will be inducted to the Naismith Hall of Fame this weekend. Is this class better than the class of 2009?
Guards and wing players coming into the NBA over the past decade all grew up in awe of the Black Mamba. And all the big men have undoubtedly watched hours and days’ worth of footage of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. The trio came to the NBA with a gap of one year from each other, playing contrasting styles.
Garnett was a defense-first forward who snagged the Wolves’ starting berth 3 years before he could legally drink. Bryant started off in a bench role behind the Lakers’ All-Star guards in his first few years. But Tim Duncan walked into the All-NBA First Team as a rookie while challenging for MVP.
The Kobe Bryant exhibit at the Hall of Fame, designed by Vanessa Bryant.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 14, 2021
All 3 of these players have left their own distinct, permanent mark on the game of basketball. All 3 took their franchises to relevance as solo stars in an era that had tons of those. We look into 5 reasons why this Hall of Fame class is better than the class of 2009.
There are 3 MVPs in this year’s class
All 3 of Kobe, Timmy D and the Big Ticket have won MVP trophies in their heyday. This is something that the class of 2009 cannot claim for itself. While MJ alone has more MVP trophies than this trio combined, he cannot alone make up the gap in accolades.
David Robinson won MVP in 1994-95, but Utah Jazz legend John Stockton was unfortunately never even in the conversation. In terms of accomplishments across the board, the class of 2009 has a bit of catching up to do.
Kobe, KG and Tim Duncan all had incredible longevity
This is a much-underestimated aspect of the impact of these pure basketball legends. Bryant, Duncan and Garnett have combined for a whopping 60 years of NBA-level experience and dominance. This is unmatched by any single Hall of Fame class thus far.
While Garnett and Kobe had to languish on non-contending teams for the final 3 years of their careers, Timmy D led his Spurs to the playoffs and a 50-win pace for 19 straight seasons. This man was on a whole other plane of consistency even after the knee injuries that robbed him of his MVP athleticism.
Michael Jordan and David Robinson both had 13 full seasons in the league, which is nothing to scoff at. John Stockton obviously has some of the most unbreakable availability records in basketball history. And yet, as a collective, you can see how their longevity is not as great as the 2020 trio’s.
Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan provided us one of the greatest Western Conference rivalries
The Black Mamba took the court with the Big Fundamental in 6 playoff series over the years. The first of these matchups came in 1999, while the last one could have happened in 2013 but for an Achilles tear that Kobe suffered that year.
Kobe’s Lakers edge out Duncan’s Lakers 4-3 in those 7 playoff series (they’re 4-2 in series where both Kobe and Duncan played). But it was always a Conference-defining rivalry that invariably yielded that year’s NBA Finalists whenever they met.
This is something that the 2009 class could not conceive with each other. Jordan and Stockton met twice in the NBA Finals, but it wasn’t a rivalry that defined an entire generation of fandom like that between Duncan and Kobe.