Top Of The Class
I consider myself lucky to have grown up watching in awe the infamous career of Michael Jordan flourish into what was inevitably going to be the most historic and storied career of an NBA player for a Century (still counting). There is no doubt that Michael Jordan was the best to ever play the game, not just for his athletic ability but for everything that he brought to the sport, the game, his team and the fans. He was an athlete, an entertainer, an icon...and still is. I can't wait to see The Final Dance on ESPN.
Just as the greatness of Michael Jordan cannot be argued, the three headliners for the 2020 NBA Hall of Fame class as a trio cannot be argued as, collectively, they are the most decorated and talented class to enter the Hall. All three of these chaps had a major impact on the game in their own way, and all three carried their teams to the promise land at least once in their career. All three hold their place in NBA history and are more than deserving of their entry into the Hall of Fame.
I was never a huge fan of Kobe overall (as I was fan-boying Jordan), but I never denied that he was a game-changing talent in the middle and latter years of his career. I respected the intensity that he brought to every game, I admired the fact that he always wanted the ball in every meaningful possession, and I adored the fact that he and Shaq were not the best of friends off the court (reportedly at the time) but found a way to always get it done when it mattered on the court.
I leave all personal feelings aside with regard to Kobe as a person, a father, a husband, a businessman, etc. Who am I to judge one's character. I didn't know the guy and only had the media's interpretation of events that unfolded throughout his playing days and throughout his short time being retired from basketball before his untimely and tragic passing, but I can state with unquestioned certainty that , next to Jordan, Kobe was the heir-apparent and his legacy will always live on as such.
Am I the only one that thought it to be some of the hardest basketball to watch when the Spurs were dominating for what seemed to be an eternity? If recollection serves me, I remember stating to my cousin a couple of times as the Spurs were ONCE AGAIN in the NBA Finals that "I can't watch the final...it's like watching the New Jersey Devils trap their way to a Stanley Cup. Unwatchable." With that said, there is no denying that any Pop-coached team was a team deserving of being in the finals during their dynastic run in the first decade of 2K.
A big reason for that was the remarkable and methodical play of Tim Duncan. I remember watching him play for Wake Forest in the mid-90's and thoroughly enjoyed his style of play, his dominance at both ends of the floor, and his presence on the court in general throughout his full four years in college. Of course, all of the translated to the NBA for Duncan, where he was eased into his role with the help of his brilliant coach and his wing man, David Robinson. As he took over the lead dog role with the Spurs, he was backed up by a slew of tremendous talent, from The Admiral to Ginobili to Parker, then the talent that is Kawhi Leonard, Duncan was always to catalyst of any positive result that the Spurs produced. A 15 time all-star and a five time NBA Champion, this man did everything the right way.
Of the three, Garnett is probably the player I had the least amount of exposure to. Starting his career out in Minnesota with the Timberwolves didn't help much as they were probably the least exciting team to me to watch with any vested interest. That is not to say that Garnett did not make his mark and do incredible things during his tenure there, but he really caught the eyes of many when he made his move to Boston and joined forces with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. As a player, I echo the sentiments that Charles Barkley relayed on this mornings (April 6, 2020) edition of Get Up on ESPN. In a segment with Mike Greenberg and Jalen Rose, Barkley stated that there were only two players in his opinion that played every game with the same intensity - like it was a game 7 - no matter what game of the season it was. Those two players - Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. I agree whole-heartedly.
Garnett was the type of player that you wanted every player to emulate. He did not take plays off, he made his presence felt on O and D, and his leadership was second to none. It was a complete and utter pleasure to watch Garnett play with the Celtics, as the birth of "Super Teams" was seemingly pioneered by the creation of Garnett-Pierce-Allen, even though their were many dynamic duos or trios before them. It just felt different with these guys for some reason, and I am glad I got to witness his tenure in Boston as it played out.