Annually, around New Years time are a new crop of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Nominees, and this year's 2023 class looks to be a promising one headlined by former Miami Heat slashing superstar, and three-time champion Dwyane Wade and the 7-foot unicorn Dirk Nowitzki who spent his entire career with the Dallas Mavericks. Other nominees are former San Antonio Spurs star guard Tony Parker and two-time champion Pau Gasol. Let's get into some of the nominees.
One of the greatest international players of all time, Nowitzki revolutionized the NBA forever by being a 7-footer who took and made threes off the catch and bounce with high volume and efficiency. He made bigs have to become more skilled in the way he helped evolve the game. He was an All-Star 14 times, All-NBA 12 times, and named the MVP (Most Valuable Player) in 2007 after leading the Mavericks to an NBA best that season to a 67-15 record.
Nowitzki reached the pinnacle of the mountain in 2011 when he led the Mavericks to their one and only championship over the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh-led Miami Heat. A skinny blonde German who was picked No.9 in the 1998 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks and traded that same night to the Mavericks turned out to be the greatest move made in franchise history.
Nowitzki ranks among the top in some prestigious NBA categories from sixth in career points (31.560), 26th in rebounds (11,489), and 13th all-time in three-pointers made (1,982). His one-legged fadeaway is one of the most patented and signature in NBA lore that has been duplicated by many that came after him from Kevin Durant to the NBA super prospect Victor Wenbayama.
He’s one of few of his peers such as Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), and Tim Duncan (Spurs) to spend their whole careers with one franchise. Nowitzki forever changed the game and he will get his rightful place in the Hall of Fame for doing so.
Isn’t it fitting that Wade and Nowitzki are in the same Hall of Fame class considering Wade defeated him in the 2006 NBA Finals and Nowitzki obtained his revenge in 2011. The Chicago-born legend came to Miami as the No.5 overall pick in the highly lauded 2003 NBA Draft the featured other future Hall of Famers such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh.
His career was separated into two chapters, pre-LeBron, and post-LeBron. Before James' arrival, Wade was an elite rim-slashing cheetah who was so quick and slithery through traffic that his teammate Shaquille O’Neal at the time deemed him “The Flash”. He led the Heat to their first franchise title in 2006 over the Nowitzki-led Mavericks in an all-time individual Finals performance for the ages that saw him average 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game in 6 games en route to being named the Finals MVP.
He took a beating with each relentless drive to the basket that later took a toll on his body as he aged. Once James came to town, Wade morphed into a robin role to help form the “Big Three” with James and Bosh where his unselfishness to sacrifice his role led to the Heat winning two more titles as a franchise in four finals trips from 2011-2014.
Wade lasted 16 years in the league, also playing for the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers before finishing back in Miami. Wade was a 13-time All-Star, 8-time All-NBA selection, and one of the greatest leaders and two-way players in history who made Miami “Wade County”.
The 2023 class has tons of international star power, add Pau Gasol to the mix. Gasol established himself as a star player while with the Memphis Grizzlies early in his career, but he solidified himself as an all-time great and future Hall of Famer as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers where he played alongside the great Kobe Bryant.
After being traded from the Grizzlies to the Lakers in 2008, Gasol elevated his career to another level, helping the Lakers win back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. He was an intelligent passer, had an impeccable feel for the game, and one of the best mid-range jumpers for a big the game has seen.
Gasol played 18 seasons in the league between the Grizzlies, Lakers, Chicago Bulls, and Spurs. He scored 20,984 points and grabbed 11,305 rebounds throughout his tremendous career.
The final part of the Spurs holy trinity that included Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker will be inducted to the Hall of Fame next summer, and that is Tony Parker. Parker was selected 28th overall in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Spurs out of France where he set many records alongside Duncan and Gonobili as the winnigest trio in NBA history.
Parler has blistering speed and a deadly spin move floater when driving to the lane against bigger, taller, longer defenders. He helped the Spurs win four titles (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014), winning the Finals MVP in 2007. Parker was named an All-Star six-times as well as being named All-NBA four times. During his career he averaged 15.5 points and 5.6 assists per game. He’s one of the greatest international players and winners that the league has ever seen.
Perseverance is the word that would describe Billups career, as he was six years and five teams into his NBA career when he took one of the most remarkable leaps to stardom ever once he joined the Detroit Pistons. Billups was the No.3 overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics where he was traded away to the Toronto Raptors that season. He got traded to the Denver Nuggets(a team he would play for again later in his career) but would be plagued by injuries which led him to joining the Minnesota Timberwolves alongside another NBA legend in Kevin Garnett.
Once he officially arrived to Detroit in 2002, Billups had officially found a place he called home for the next seven seasons where he earned the nickname “Mr. Big Shot.” five All-Star selections, and a Finals MVP award in 2004 where they toppled the Shaq-Kobe led Lakers in five games.
Now the head coach for the Portland Trail Blazers, Billups, 46, averaged 15.2 points and 5.4 assists per game. He is one of the clutchest players of all time and is the epitome of perseverance.