The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has inducted over 400 members into its ranks since 1959. This year, six more individuals will officially be enshrined in basketball history.
NBA legends Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker headline the Hall of Fame’s class of 2023. Joining them are San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and former WNBA superstar Becky Hammon.
All six individuals had their careers intertwined with one another. Nowitzki and Wade faced off in a pair of NBA Finals matchups. Wade came out on top in 2006, while Nowitzki got his revenge in 2011. Parker and Popovich worked together to turn the Spurs into one of the greatest dynasties in basketball. Popovich also coached Gasol in San Antonio for three years. Hammon served as an assistant coach for the Spurs for eight seasons after finishing her playing career with the San Antonio Silver Stars.
While their careers overlapped from time to time, every single member of this year’s class excelled on their own throughout their respective careers. Their legacies will now live forever in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Wade may be the most recognized No. 3 in NBA history. Drafted by the Miami Heat in 2003, Wade immediately made his presence felt throughout the league. With a stellar rookie campaign, he helped guide Miami back to the playoffs in just his first NBA season. Two years later, Wade led the Heat to its first championship in franchise history. He averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game in the 2006 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
Dwyane Wade is a Hall Of Fame finalist for 2023.
A career of highlight plays, let's throw it back to this one. ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/IM0BG1B9iR
— Dunk League (@DunkLeague) March 29, 2023
Following injury-plagued seasons in 2007 and 2008, Wade bounced back to become the 2009 NBA scoring champion. He averaged a career-high 30.2 points per game to notch his first of two All-NBA First Team selections. Wade went on to form one of the most feared teams in NBA history: the “Big 3.” Teaming up with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Wade won two more championships with the Heat. While James won Finals MVP, Wade still played an essential role in both of Miami’s championship runs.
James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 and Bosh suffered career-ending blood clots in 2016, leading to Wade’s departure as well. After 13 seasons in Miami, Wade signed with the Chicago Bulls in 2016. He then briefly joined James in Cleveland for the first half of the 2017-18 season. Eventually, he rejoined the Heat via a trade in 2018, and he remained with the team for the rest of his career. He will now join Bosh, a 2021 inductee, in the Hall of Fame.
Just like Wade, Nowitzki essentially owns his number across the league. When it comes to No. 41 in the NBA, the first person to come to mind will likely be Dirk Nowitzki. After the Milwaukee Bucks drafted him in 1998, they immediately traded him to the Mavericks. He ended up spending his entire 21-year career in Dallas.
Nowitzki racked up plenty of accolades throughout his time in the league. From three consecutive All-NBA First Team selections (and four total) in the 2000s to winning MVP in 2007, Nowitzki established himself as one of the league’s premier talents. However, perhaps the most notable moment of his career came in 2011. Nowitzki led the Mavericks to one of the biggest upsets in NBA history, as they knocked off the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.
As one of the highest-scoring power forwards in NBA history, Nowitzki will likely be remembered for his trademark fadeaway jumper. The Mavericks even built a statue of him hitting his signature shot, “The Dirk,” outside of the American Airlines Center. Alongside Wade, perhaps his biggest rival in his NBA career, the greatest Maverick of all time will now enter the ranks of the Hall of Fame.
Gasol had a storied career throughout the league. He won Rookie of the Year with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002, making him the first foreign-born player to win the award. Gasol earned his first career All-Star nod in 2006, but he struggled to find much success in Memphis. However, his fortunes changed in 2008, when the Grizzlies traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers. Alongside Lakers cornerstone Kobe Bryant, Gasol helped turn Los Angeles back into a championship city.
The Lakers won back-to-back NBA Finals in 2009 and 2010. Gasol played a major role in these championship runs, earning a pair of All-NBA Third Team selections along the way. He also earned an All-NBA Second Team nod in 2011 and 2015, the latter of which came with the Chicago Bulls. Gasol departed from the Lakers in 2014 as the team’s performance began to decline.
After brief stints with the Bulls, Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks, Gasol played his final NBA game in 2019. He officially retired two years later. Gasol eventually had his No. 16 retired by the Lakers in 2023. His jersey now hangs in the Los Angeles rafters, right next to Bryant’s No. 8 and 24.
Parker had the least-likely success story of anyone in the 2023 class. The Spurs drafted him with the 28th pick in the 2001 draft, making him the only NBA player in the class selected outside of the Top 10 of his draft. Despite this, he became a key cog in the machine of San Antonio’s budding dynasty. In just his first six years with the Spurs, Parker helped them win three NBA championships. He even came away with a Finals MVP in their 2007 Finals victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Outside of the team’s dominance, Parker became a force to be reckoned with himself. He earned three All-NBA Second Team nods in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He went on to win his fourth championship in the latter season. After 17 seasons with the Spurs and one with the Charlotte Hornets, Parker retired in 2019. At the time of his retirement, Parker ranked in the Top 10 in both all-time points and assists in the NBA Playoffs.
Popovich stands out among this group for multiple reasons. Not only is he the sole NBA coach in the 2023 Hall of Fame class, but he is also the only member of the class that has not retired. Popovich took over as the Spurs head coach in 1996, a position he has retained through the 2022-23 season. The Spurs went on to record zero losing seasons from 1997-2020.
While most inductees enter the Hall of Fame after retiring, Popovich’s resume speaks for itself. He has won five NBA championships and three Coach of the Year awards, all with the Spurs. Popovich has also won the most games as a head coach in league history. Outside of the NBA, he led Team USA to a gold medal in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Rounding out the 2023 Hall of Fame class, Hammon built an impressive resume in her careers both on and off the court. Initially serving as a backup point guard for the New York Liberty, she eventually worked her way into the starting lineup and never looked back. She made three All-Star game appearances and earned an All-WNBA Second Team nod in her time with New York. Upon being dealt to the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2007, Hammon turned from an All-Star into a superstar.
— Justin Michael (@JustinTMichael) October 28, 2020
Hammon earned three more All-Star nods and a pair of All-WNBA First Team selections in San Antonio. She also led the Silver Stars to their first WNBA Finals Appearance in franchise history during the 2008 postseason. Despite never winning a championship as a player, she was still recognized as a Top 25 player in WNBA history in 2021.
After her playing career ended, she made history with the San Antonio Spurs, as she became the first-ever female assistant coach in the NBA. In 2021, she signed on to be the head coach of her old squad, albeit under a new name. The San Antonio Silver Stars had now become the Las Vegas Aces. Regardless of the branding, Hammon got to work immediately, guiding the Aces to their first championship in team history. While Hammon is being enshrined into the Hall of Fame for her accolades as a player, she may eventually work her way into the Hall as a coach as well.