Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will be ushered into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, the organization confirmed on Saturday.
The star-studded class of 2023, who will be enshrined at a ceremony in August, also include trailblazing WNBA player and coach Becky Hammon, the Hall of Fame announced.
German star Nowitzki, former Los Angeles Lakers Spanish ace Gasol and France’s Parker are three of the most successful international stars ever to grace the NBA.
Parker won four NBA championships during the Spurs’ dominant reign between 2003 and 2014, while Gasol was a key part of the Lakers team that won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
Nowitzki, who is sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 31,560 points, was named NBA Most Valuable Player in 2007 and Finals MVP four years later after helping the Dallas Mavericks win the title.
Reacting to Saturday’s announcement, Nowitzki paid tribute to international players who had paved the way for his generation in the NBA.
“I think there were a few guys who blazed the way for us a little bit,” Nowitzki said. “And then the next wave came with Pau, Tony and myself. And if we help to make the game truly global and help some kids along the way that’s obviously truly humbling for all of us.”
Barcelona-born Gasol, meanwhile, recalled how watching the US ‘Dream Team’ at the 1992 Olympics staged in his hometown had helped inspire his basketball journey.
“I always had in mind the effect that the ‘Dream Team ‘92’ had on my life and how basketball and sports can affect and inspire kids’ lives, so I just wanted to do that,” Gasol told ESPN.
The 6ft 2in (1.88m) tall Parker reflected how people had doubted his ability to be successful in the NBA due to his height.
“Growing up the NBA dream was very far away,” Parker said.
“When I was telling people my dream they were all laughing at me saying ‘You’re too small, you’re too skinny, you will never make it in the NBA’. Now I’m the one laughing.”
Wade was a three-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat in 2006, 2012 and 2013 and won finals MVP in 2006.
The 41-year-old, who retired from the NBA in 2019, also won Olympic gold with the United States in the 2008 Beijing Games.
The 74-year-old Popovich, meanwhile, is one of the NBA’s elder statesmen, one of only five NBA coaches in history to have won five championships.
‘Out of body experience’
Popovich also led the United States to gold in the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
“Those of us who’ve ended up in this position -- it’s incredible,” Popovich said in a recorded message on ESPN on Saturday.
“It’s an honor, and something that one does not think about when going through your years in this game. It’s an awesome thought to think about all the players that I’ve had the honor to coach, who are the ones who won the games.
“I sit here amongst people who I’ve always been in awe of myself. So to be in this situation is kind of an out of body experience.”
Nowitzki, Wade, Parker, Gasol and Popovich are all being inducted into the basketball pantheon at the first attempt, a rarity under the Hall of Fame’s eligibility rules which reflects their stellar achievements in the sport.
Joining Popovich in the Hall of Fame will be former assistant Hammon.
Hammon is a six-time All-Star and coached the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA Finals crown in 2022. The 46-year-old was also Popovich’s assistant coach in San Antonio from 2014 -- the first woman assistant coach in the NBA.
She remains the only woman to take charge of an NBA team during a regular season game after stepping in when Popovich was ejected during a clash with the Lakers in 2020.
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