Kobe Bryant & ‘Epic’ Hall of Fame Class Put on COVID-19 Delay

Kobe Bryant, Lakers, at left, guarded by fellow Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett

Kobe Bryant, Lakers, at left, guarded by fellow Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett

John Doleva, the president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was hoping to keep the upcoming and much-anticipated Class of 2020 in this calendar year. Last month, Doleva said he intended to keep the enshrinement ceremony for all-time greats Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan of the NBA, as well as Tamika Catchings of the WNBA, at its slotted time in August but had established a back-up date at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., in October.

“We expect this to be one of the biggest classes, one of the toughest tickets, maybe in the history of the Hall of Fame,” Doleva said.

But it looks as if that class will wait until 2021. Jerry Colangelo, the Hall of Fame’s chairman of the board of governors, told ESPN that both the original enshrinement date (August 29) and the backup date (October 11) have been called off because of the toll of the novel coronavirus.

“We’re definitely canceling,” Colangelo said, according to reporter Jackie MacMullan. “It’s going to have to be the first quarter of next year. We’ll meet in a couple of weeks and look at the options of how and when and where.”

48 NBA All-Star Appearances Among 3 Stars

The ceremony was certain to be a special one following the tragic death of Bryant in January, when he was killed, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

With Duncan, Garnett and Bryant going into the Hall of Fame together, the Class of 2020 would have arguably been the most accomplished NBA crowd to enter as a group. The three combined for 48 All-Star appearances, four MVP awards and 11 NBA championships.

Catchings was also an MVP in the WNBA and made 10 All-Star appearances. She also won four Olympic gold medals for Team USA.

Colangelo said earlier in the year that the group was, “expected to be arguably the most epic class ever with Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Kobe will be honored the way he should be.”

Garnett, whose head-to-head battles with Duncan throughout the 2000s were among the decade’s highlights, said, “I’m glad to be going in a class with Timmy. I’m very honored to be going into a class with the great Kobe Bryant, Tamika Catchings and others.”

Hall of Fame Underwent Renovations

Now it’s just a matter of when that will happen. The Hall of Fame has been shut down for a $20 million renovation since February, a makeover that was scheduled long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

That renovation has seen the iconic ball-shaped roof of the building redone, panel by panel, to stop a leaking problem. It also includes the installation of new, state-of-the-art interactive displays honoring Hall of Famers. It was scheduled to be finished in April, but the museum planned to remain closed until at least June. Doleva and the HOF were braced for the loss of revenue.

But losing out on the vaunted Class of 2020, at least for now, will hurt even more. Enshrinement brings hundreds to the building each year and to the ceremony at Symphony Hall. With the travel required for the weekend, though, and with the advanced age of many of the attendees, there was too much risk in going through with enshrinement this year.

They will still come, but not until 2021.

READ MORE: 11 Hall of Famers Weigh In on LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan Debate


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