CHICAGO — The youth of the NBA was on display Friday, but before the Rising Stars took the court at the United Center, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the eight finalists from the North American and women’s committees to be considered for election in 2020 — a list that includes Kobe Bryant.
Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash last month, is joined by Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Tamika Catchings as well as previous finalists Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens and Eddie Sutton.
“When the nominees for the Class of 2020 were announced in December, we knew this class had the potential of being one of the most historic of all time,” Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “The untimely passing of Kobe Bryant has left us in a state of reflective mourning and we’re proud to honor his legacy while also recognizing seven other individuals who have meant so much to our game. We congratulate our finalists and those who have supported them on their journeys, and we look forward to revealing the Class of 2020 at the Final Four in Atlanta.”
The Hall also announced the winners of the Curt Gowdy Award — Knicks announcer Mike Breen and Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon.
While the Knicks have struggled for decades, Breen has been one of the best play-by-play broadcasters around while working for the Madison Square Garden Network and also for ESPN and ABC in a career spanning 28 years.
Chicago still MJ’s town
It is Bryant whom the NBA is honoring during All-Star Weekend, paying tribute to the late Lakers star. But there was another star on the mind of young players preparing to play in Chicago and the arena that Michael Jordan built.
As the Rising Stars participants were readying for Friday night’s game they talked about the player who starred before they were born.
Said Knicks rookie RJ Barrett, “He’s going to be idolized in every generation. He’s the best to ever do it. I really love his fighting spirit, his competitive spirit. It’s really tough to go to the Finals six times and win it six times, take a break and come back and win three in a row. Those things are tough. Everything I’ve heard about his mentality, I admire it.”
Wise beyond his years
Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson was asked if he, as a representative of Brand Jordan, knew where Jordan could be found this weekend.
“Honestly, I cannot tell you,” Williamson said. “Check a golf course. He’ll probably be there.”