WHAT: A Texas-sized induction ceremony for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
WHO: Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Becky Hammon, Tony Parker, and Gregg Popovich
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: A handful of the giants of Texas basketball are still waiting to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but that number is shrinking by five. According to an ESPN report, we know six of the (usually ten) names that will be added to the institution, and most of them are familiar to Texans—especially San Antonians.
But first, headlining the list is Dirk Nowitzki, the iconic Dallas Mavericks forward who retired in 2019. Nowitzki is among the most beloved and transformational players in recent NBA history, and his induction has been inevitable since at least 2011, when he led the Mavs to a championship over the LeBron James– and Dwyane Wade–led Miami Heat. Dirk’s status as a first-ballot Hall of Famer was never in question, but it’s still exciting to see it made official.
Beyond Dirk, we’ve got a good smattering of players and coaches affiliated with the Spurs. The team’s dynastic years may be little more than a memory at this point, but those halcyon days wouldn’t have existed without the contributions of most of the new inductees. That’s obviously true of head coach Gregg Popovich, whose resume needn’t be repeated here—but we’ll do it anyway because it’s fun to recount! Upon taking over as head coach in 1996, Popovich tapped the “Twin Tower” era of late-career David Robinson and fresh-from-college Tim Duncan to lead San Antonio to its first NBA title in 1999 (his third season with the team). Pop liked winning so much that he did it four more times—in 2003, 2005, 2007, and then once more in 2014 (he also came within one game of doing so in 2013, but fell short against fellow 2023 HOF inductee Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat). Along the way, he picked up NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2003, 2012, and 2014, and added a unique notch to his belt last year when he became the winningest coach in NBA history. It’s rare for an active NBA coach to be inducted into the Hall—the last two to receive the honor were Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan, in 2007 and 2009, respectively—and Popovich is a logical choice to join them.
So, too, is Hammon, who spent eight seasons with the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars (where she earned three of her six career selections to the all-star team). Hammon enters the Hall as a player, but upon hanging up her jersey in 2014, she continued to beef up her resume by becoming the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA (or any of the other four major U.S. professional sports leagues) when she joined Popovich’s staff on the Spurs. Hammon spent eight seasons as one of Pop’s chief assistants, achieving several other historic firsts along the way. Hammon, in 2015, was the first female head coach to lead a team to an NBA Summer League championship; the next year, she became the first woman to coach in an NBA All-Star Game; and in 2020, she was the first woman to serve as head coach in an NBA regular season game (during a game in which Popovich was ejected).
Hammon left San Antonio at the end of the 2021–22 season to take a head coaching job in the WNBA with the Las Vegas Aces, where she—of course—led the team to a championship in her first season, becoming the first rookie WNBA coach to do so.
Pau Gasol, meanwhile, spent just less than three seasons with the Spurs—he joined the team in 2016 and earned All-Star honors in his first year with the organization, when he helped the team reach the Western Conference Finals. His tenure with the team ended midway through an injury-plagued 2018–19 campaign, when the Spurs bought out the then-38-year-old center’s contract. Gasol’s time in San Antonio came toward the end of his career, but Spurs fans nonetheless remember him fondly.
And then, finally, there’s Tony Parker. The French point guard spent seventeen seasons with the Spurs and was part of the team’s core trio along with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginóbili, both of whom already had their Hall of Fame tickets punched in recent years. Parker, a six-time All-Star and integral part of four of the five NBA championship rosters in Spurs history, is one of just ten players to have his number retired by the organization.
Finally, there’s Dwayne Wade, who—while not a Texan—did manage to lose a Finals series to all of the Texans who are being inducted this year. (In fairness, he also won one against each of them.) Let’s just move the dang ceremony to Texas this year!