Sports Journalism Blog

By Christopher Wright

Sports Capital Journalism Program

HOUSTON – The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 2023 class on Saturday, with the global game and international competition at the center of the celebration.

The inductees include Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker. Other members of the class are Greg Popovich, Dwyane Wade, Becky Hammon, Gene Bess, David Hixon, Gene Keady and Gary Blair.

Jim Valvano will be enshrined posthumously, and the 1976 Women’s Olympic Basketball Team, represented by Juliene Brazinski Simpson, will be honored as a team.

The official enshrinement ceremony will take place August 12 at Springfield Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass.

The careers of Parker, Wade, Nowitzki and Gasol can serve as a solid historiography for the National Basketball Association between 2001 and 2014. The players together have won 10 NBA championships, a fact that Wade mentioned. “We have so much history, and I think the cool thing is we can get over anything we have because they beat me and I beat them,” he said, laughing.

The coaches inducted this year represent a massive range in both collegiate and professional basketball, but the theme in common with each of them was longevity. “I was honored to stay in the same community for 50 years,” said Gene Bess, the winningest coach across all official forms of collegiate basketball with 1,300 at Three Rivers Community College.

Hammon, just as deserving of an inductee as a player than a coach, was unable to make it to the press conference, largely due to the fact that she’s on the road chasing back-to-back championships with the Las Vegas Aces, her second as a head coach, after being named to the WNBA All-Star list six times over her playing career.

Popovich, who was unable to make it Saturday, has won more NBA games than any other head coach in its history at 1,363. The U.S. has won two Olympic Gold Medals under his leadership, and in his 27 seasons as a head coach, San Antonio as an organization, thanks in large part to Popovich, has become basketball legend.

Valvano famously led North Carolina State to the 1983 championship, possibly the most improbable in the history of the tournament.

Hixon spent 42 years coaching Amherst, a legendary Division III program, where he led his teams to the National Semifinals four years and to the Championship twice. He spoke briefly about a dinner Friday Night that was held with current and former Naismith Hall of Fame inductees, characterizing what a special fan-to-hero cycle the Hall of Fame brings.

Blair, in a measured, Texas drawl, stated that he “belongs” to five schools, but most famously Texas A&M, where Blair won the 2011 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. Over his career, Blair’s 852 victories make him one of the winningest NCAA women’s basketball coaches in its history.

Keady went to the NCAA Tournament 17 times with the Purdue Boilermakers, getting to the Elite Eight twice, winning six Big Ten regular season Championships and seven Big Ten Coach of the Year honors.

One of the most unique honorees was the 1976 Women’s Olympic U.S Team, who received the silver medal behind the Soviet Union. The team closed the gap between the historically dominant women’s teams around the world and the United States. Simpson said with a smile that she’s “very excited to now pass the torch on to Caitlin Clark.”