Basketball HOF induction roundup: Speeches from 2023 class
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame welcomed its class of 2023 on Saturday. Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Becky Hammon, and Gregg Popovich were among the notable enshrinees to join the hall in Springfield.
Out of a loaded class full of legends, D-Wade separates himself from the rest. A shooting guard who defined his position over a generation, the Miami Heat selected the Marquette product No. 5 overall in the legendary 2003 draft, alongside future teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Wade became the immediate face of the franchise and exploded in his third season, leading Miami to its first title in franchise history with Shaquille O'Neal in 2006 - against another 2023 enshrinee in Nowitzki. Wade eventually paired up with James and Bosh to win back-to-back rings with the Heat in 2012 and 2013 - the final one over Popovich and Tony Parker. Wade holds franchise records in games played, points, assists, and steals. He is Mr. Heat personified.
The winningest coach in NBA history, Popovich becomes the latest Spur to reach the Hall of Fame - joining David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and 2023 member Tony Parker. The longest-tenured coach in American sports, the San Antonio stalwart has recorded 1,364 wins since 1996, leading the franchise to five championships. A three-time NBA Coach of the Year, Popovich also guided the U.S. men's national team to a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 74-year-old penned a five-year extension in July and is ready to remain at the helm to guide another phenom - recent top overall pick Victor Wembanyama.
Popovich inserted Parker into the starting lineup just five games into the point guard's 2001 rookie season - a move that changed the trajectory of the Frenchman's career. Parker would hold onto the position in San Antonio for 17 seasons, playing alongside Duncan and Ginobili. The trio won four titles over 12 seasons, with Parker becoming the first European player to win Finals MVP in 2007. His 6,829 assists are the most in Spurs franchise history, more than 2,000 than the next player on the list - Avery Johnson.
The face of the Dallas Mavericks, Nowitzki spent the entirety of his illustrious 21-season career with the franchise, holding team records for games and minutes played, points, rebounds, blocks, and field goals. Coming straight from Germany in 1998, Nowitzki eventually turned the lowly Mavs into a successful regular-season team and frisky playoff squad in the early 2000s, winning at least 50 games every season from 2001-11. The 2007 MVP led Dallas to its only NBA title in franchise history in 2011 - defeating the Heat's Big Three of James, Wade, and Bosh.
Another player from outside the U.S., Spain's Gasol spent seven seasons in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, becoming the first international player to win Rookie of the Year and helping the franchise reach its first playoff appearances. The Los Angeles Lakers acquired him, pairing up with the late Kobe Bryant to win back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. After helping the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs remain competitive, Gasol returned to Barcelona to finish his career. The first Spanish player to reach the Hall of Fame, Gasol helped La Roja win Olympic silver medals in 2008 and 2012.
From going undrafted in 1999 to making six All-Star Games and nabbing two All-WNBA first-team nods, Hammon made an undeniable mark in the WNBA over her 15-year career with the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars. She stayed in the Alamo City after her playing career, joining Popovich as an assistant with the Spurs as the second female coach in NBA history. Hammon then returned to the WNBA, leading the Las Vegas Aces to their first title in league history as a rookie coach in 2022.
Joining the hall posthumously, Valvano's impact is still felt. A coach for more than 20 years, Jimmy V helped lead N.C. State to an upset victory in the 1983 NCAA championship game over Houston. Valvano was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the end of his coaching career and delivered one of the most memorable speeches in sports at the 1993 ESPY Awards. Years after his passing, the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance was created in his honor.
Best known for his time with Purdue, Keady led the Boilermakers to the NCAA Tournament 17 times, reaching the Elite Eight in 1994 and 2000. A five-time National Coach of the Year, Keady helped the likes of Joe Barry Carroll, Brad Miller, and Glenn Robinson reach the NBA while in West Lafayette. Another player who played under Keady, Matt Painter, took over for him at Purdue after his retirement in 2005.
One of the most successful head coaches at the women's collegiate level, Blair reached the NCAA Tournament 23 times in 37 years as a head coach. The Texas native led Arkansas to the Final Four in 1998 as well as Texas A&M in 2011 - with the Aggies winning their first championship. He's also enshrined in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Other members that were inducted into the hall include longtime coaches Gene Bess and David Hixon, as well as the 1976 U.S. women's Olympic team.
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