Tony Parker and Pau Gasol played for him. Becky Hammon coached next to him. Theodore Nowitzki and Dwyane fought against him.
It’s Gregg Popovich.
And finally, he’s a Hall of Famer.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame became official Saturday, with three of the NBA’s greatest internationals of all time — Nowitzki, Parker and Gasol — joining Wade, Hammon and Popovich as the captains of the 2023 class, which will be inducted on Aug. 11. and 12 ceremonies in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“This is basketball heaven.” Wade said on an ESPN telecast in Houston.
Also getting a Hall of Fame call: 1976 US women’s basketball team all-star; former Purdue coach Gene Keady, seven-time Big Ten coach of the year; former Texas A&M women’s coach Gary Blair, who took two teams to the Final Four; longtime coach at Division III Amherst and two-time national champion David Hixon; and Gene Bess — who won 1,300 games as a junior college coach at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
Recently, Jim Valvano, who coached NC State to the 1983 NCAA title, was selected as an assistant—also in light of his broader work and advocacy for cancer research and the V Foundation.
Hall of Fame president Jerry Colangelo announced the happy news to the new members or their families earlier this week. Most of them joined Colangelo and other Hall of Famers for a gracious dinner on Friday, then on Saturday they received their first public bows for the Royal basketball team.
“This class not only represents all levels of basketball — it truly represents, in every aspect, what the game is about and where it is,” Colangelo told the Associated Press. “I mean, think about the candidates. The countries represented there are Germany and Spain and France. It shows how far the game has come and where it is today. I think it’s probably the most unique genre, I’d say, of all time, and it covers a lot of territory. By itself it stands in singularity.
Four NBA players — Nowitzki, Parker, Gasol and Wade — combined for 95,092 points, 39 All-Star appearances and 10 NBA championships. Hammon was a six-day WNBA All-Star and is the coach of the WNBA’s reigning Las Vegas Aces.
And all Popovich has done is win five NBA titles, more games than anyone else in the history of the league and an Olympic gold medal in the Tokyo Games that will be played in 2021.
“It’s amazing,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich and led USA Basketball under him to the 2019 World Cup and then the Tokyo Olympics. “The Hall of Fame was the reason. They know everybody is there. It was just with the stuff.
It has long been believed that Popovich wanted some in the Hall before allowing himself to be considered. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili had to go first, and Popovich also had two-time champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich in Houston. Parker seems like a good fit with Popovich going in, and Popovich has long raved about Hammon’s talent.
“In all honesty, I always felt like the Hall of Fame was for Red Holzman, Red Auerbach and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. … I never felt like it really belonged, to be honest with you,” Popovich said. “I’m not trying to be Mr. Humble, or anything. I’m a Division III guy. I’m not a Hall of Fame guy.”
It’s the latest accolade for Gasol, the longtime Spanish star whose two NBA championships came with the Los Angeles Lakers alongside his best friend Kobe Bryant. Nowitzki, the big German who changed the game with his combination of big man and guard skills, spent his entire 21-year career in Dallas and is sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Parker won four rings with Popovich in San Antonio.
“When I got the call from Jerry, I tried to keep everything cool on the phone … but this is super cool,” Nowitzki said. “And I called my family, my immediate family… and my mother, right away, she said, ‘I’m the mother of a Hall of Famer.’ That’s when it was really set up.
Wade won three titles with Miami. In the arena where the Heat play, they retired the numbers of five former players — Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Chris Bosh and Wade. Now all five of them have joined the Hall of Fame as well.
Like Parker, Nowitzki and Gasol — and Popovich, for that matter — Wade got in the first round.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer that all of these guys are first-round guys,” Heat president Pat Lee said. “Look at the records. Look at the length of time we’ve had in this league. Look at what they’ve done about the league, and how much the league has called them back, because they’re ambassadors of a great league, and they have a great voice and a great message. Dwyane being the first voter was a no-brainer.”
He will receive his Navy jackets and Hall of Fame rings on Aug. 11. in Uncasville, Connecticut, will have ceremonies and speeches on Aug. 12. They will come to Springfield, Massachusetts.
“It’s unbelievable,” Popovich said on the telecast. “Of course it’s an honor… I’m sitting here among people I’ve always feared myself. So be it in this case that the kind of out-of-body experience is honest with you. I can do everything thanks to all the people who have helped me in this situation.”