Kevin Garnett turned the projected Class of 2021 at the Hall of Fame from magical to amazing when he announced his retirement Friday and started the clock on the five-year wait period to be enshrined with fellow first-ballot automatics Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan and possibly wild card Gregg Popovich.
The look will change if Duncan, Bryant or Garnett return to the NBA, but the certainty of the moment, that all three have retired since the end of 2015-16, makes them eligible to be nominated in 2020 for the election and induction that would come in ’21. While it would not be the most star-studded enshrinement ever — the 2010 group included the 1992 Dream Team, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson as part of the 1960 Olympic team and Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen as individuals — the Class of 2021 in its current form will be historic.
And that’s just among the candidates with strong NBA ties and the certainty of players on a set schedule. Popovich, eligible to be nominated at any time but having discouraged the recognition, could decide entering the Hall with Duncan is the best outcome, much the same way Jerry Sloan made it clear he did not want the spotlight but finally gave in to be enshrined with John Stockton in 2009. (That 2009 ceremony, like 2010 and probably 2021, could have been held on Mt. Olympus as well, with Michael Jordan, Stockton, David Robinson and Sloan.)
Plus, Tamika Catchings should be easily elected by the Women’s committee in 2021, scheduled to be her first year on the ballot.
The developments for a class five years away comes in the wake of another highly publicized group, the 2016 group headlined by Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming. The candidates for 2017 are slim, with Ben Wallace the biggest name among players eligible for the first time, an opening for carryover candidates Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber. Jason Kidd, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady, among others, can be nominated for 2017.