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The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2023 has officially been inducted after a ceremony on Saturday night that involved laughs, tears and immense gratitude all around. It’s one of the more star-studded classes in recent memory, highlighted by Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Becky Hammon. All 11 individuals, plus the entire 1976 Olympic women’s basketball team, can now call themselves Hall of Famers.
Before we get to a recap of the night, here’s a complete list of those who were enshrined in the Class of 2023:
- Dwyane Wade
- Dirk Nowitzki
- Pau Gasol
- Tony Parker
- Becky Hammon
- Gregg Popovich
- Jim Valvano
- 1976 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team
- David Hixon
- Gary Blair
- Gene Bess
- Gene Keady
Each inductee had their moment in the sun on Saturday night, so let’s run down some quick highlights from each speech.
Wade talked about his humble roots in the Chicago area, and took a moment to recognize all of the people in the building who had contributed to his success.
“My love of competition came from seeing my dad and uncles go at it,” Wade said.
He also talked about how lessons from basketball helped him get through life.
Nowitzki thanked his family, along with multiple former coaches and teammates, joking with Steve Nash about their “brutal haircuts.” But the best part may have been his story about dunking on Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Hammon thanked her Spurs family, many of which were in the house on Saturday night for the enshrinement of Parker and Popovich, and she had some poignant words about the importance of investment in women.
Pop gave a lengthy speech with plenty of memories and enduring sentiments, but the most memorable moment may have been when he pump-faked everyone in the building by delivering what appeared to be a closing line, only to return to the dais to insist he wasn’t done.
“I’ve been waiting for this a long time. I’m not done,” he said.
Known for his prowess in both the NBA and on the international stage while playing for Spain, Gasol thanked the late Kobe Bryant for his influence and their friendship.
“I wouldn’t be here without you, brother,” Gasol said of Bryant. “I wish more than anything that you and Gigi were here today with us. I miss you and love you.”
Another Spurs legend, Parker talked at length about his relationship with the French national team, and of course had to single out his coach and mentor, Gregg Popovich.
One of the most inspirational coaches in the game’s history both on and off the floor, Valvano was enshrined posthumously 40 years after his North Carolina State Wolfpack upset Houston and 30 years after his passing, which would lead to the creation of The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
The legendary Purdue coach had some inspirational words, including, “I have led a blessed life and I am humbled to receive this honor. Please remember always do the right thing and play hard.”
1976 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team
Team members talked about how influential their performance was to the continued development of the women’s game. Multiple current and former members of USA Basketball also offered congratulations and gratitude in a video tribute.
Prolific Amherst coach David Hixon joked that people wouldn’t know who he was next to all of the NBA legends, but he delivered an inspiring speech that included the line, “My story is a 50-year love affair with a school and sport.”
Perhaps not a name well known to NBA fans, Bess is the winningest coach in college basketball history and the first person to ever make the Hall of Fame after only being a head coach at the junior college level.
“Thank you to every player I ever coached,” Bess said. “I want you to know that I love you.”
One of the most successful women’s college basketball coaches in history, Blair talked about his humble introduction to the women’s game.
“I am convinced that God led three young women to knock on the door of my office and ask me if I would be interested in coaching girls basketball at South Oak Cliff High School” Blair said. “Here I am 50 years later at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.”
Below is a recap of our live updates from the event.