A day after watching his longtime friend and teammate Kevin Garnett enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, longtime Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce joined him in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Pierce, along with two-time champion and 11-time All-Star selection Chris Bosh, five-time All-NBA selection Chris Webber and four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, headlined the 2021 Hall of Fame class. The honor was announced the day after Garnett, Tim Duncan and the late Kobe Bryant officially were inducted as part of the 2020 class, which saw its entry delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2021 class will be enshrined on Sept. 11.
Webber had been a finalist in each of the past five years before finally breaking through. Bosh and Pierce were among those who made it in their first year of eligibility.
The other members of the 2021 class:
Rick Adelman, longtime NBA coach
Jay Wright, two-time NCAA champion head coach
Bill Russell, who won two championships as a coach, for his time on the sideline
Yolanda Griffith, seven-time WNBA All-Star
Lauren Jackson, seven-time WNBA All-Star and three-time MVP
Bob Dandridge, by the veterans committee
Toni Kukoc, by the international committee
Pearl Moore, four-time AIAW Small College All-American, by the women’s veterans committee
Clarence Jenkins, elected as an Early African-American Pioneer
Val Ackerman, former WNBA president
Cotton Fitzsimmons, longtime NBA coach
Howard Garfinkel, creator of the Five-Star summer camp
Pierce, alongside Garnett and Ray Allen, led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title, along with winning Finals MVP that same year. He finished with 10 All-Star appearances, four All-NBA team selections and scored more than 26,000 points across his 19 seasons with the Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and LA Clippers.
Toronto Raptors in 2003, spent seven years with Toronto before joining the Miami Heat as a free agent in 2010, teaming up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to advance to four straight NBA Finals, winning two of them (2012 and 2013). He also won a gold medal with Team USA in 2008, though his career was cut short by blood-clot issues that caused him to have to retire in 2017 while still in his prime.
“It was short-lived, in my opinion,” Bosh said about his career. “I wanted to play a lot longer; unfortunately it came to an abrupt end. But just looking back on everything I was able to accomplish, all the friends I was able to make, the connections I made, all the memories we were able to make together, that’s what’s most important.”
After being part of one of college basketball’s most iconic teams as the top recruit of the Fab Five to attend the University of Michigan, Webber, the No. 1 pick in the 1993 NBA draft, was a five-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA selection and the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1994. His best years came playing for Adelman with the Sacramento Kings from 1998 to 2005, when he helped lead the Kings to seven of the 10 playoff appearances they’ve made in their 36 years in Sacramento — and he was there all four times they won a playoff series.
“I’m just thankful man, thankful … I’m just in shock, I really don’t know what to say,” Webber told his friend and former Michigan teammate Jalen Rose when asked for his reaction to the news.
Jalen Rose and Chris Webber reminisce as Webber reflects on his election to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Wallace, who went undrafted out of Virginia Union in 1996, developed into one of the best defensive players of all time and was the anchor of the great Detroit Pistons teams of the 2000s that won the title in 2004 and made it to six consecutive Eastern Conference finals. Wallace, who also played for the Wizards, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, is tied with Dikembe Mutombo for the most Defensive Player of the Year honors (four) in a career, and he made four All-Star teams, five All-NBA teams and five All-Defensive teams.
Adelman made it to two NBA Finals and won more than 1,000 games as a coach with the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves, while Wright lifted Villanova back to the top of the college basketball world, winning titles in 2016 and 2018 and making three Final Fours during his time in Philadelphia.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Wright said. “You showed the picture of all those guys — Bill Russell, KG, Chris Webber — and just to be hanging with these guys right now and listening to their stories and being part of the Hall with them, and this class, it’s nothing you’d ever even dream of. It’s pretty cool.”
Russell, one of the greatest players of all time and the NBA’s first Black head coach, won a pair of titles as the Celtics’ coach in the late ’60s. He had previously been enshrined as a player in 1975. He becomes the fifth Hall of Famer who’ll be inducted as both a player and a coach, joining John Wooden, Lenny Wilkens, Bill Sharman and Tommy Heinsohn.
Jackson was a three-time MVP and won two championships with the Seattle Storm, while Yolanda Griffith was the 1999 WNBA MVP and led the Sacramento Monarchs to the title in 2005.
“I’m very, very proud just to be given an opportunity,” Griffith said of her time in the WNBA. “I got drafted in ’99, No. 2 pick to the Sacramento Monarchs, and it was a joy because that gave me an opportunity to be back home from playing over in Europe. It gave my family a chance to see me play, finally, on the professional level, and just enjoy playing at that level on the highest level, basically. I enjoyed the ride with the Sacramento Monarchs.”
Also Sunday, the Hall said ESPN vice president of women’s sports programming Carol Stiff is this year’s recipient of the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. She will be honored during Hall of Fame weekend.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.