Hall of Fame: Class of 2023

5 NBA legends headline Class of 2023 Hall of Fame nominees

Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker are among the 1st-time candidates eligible for the Class of 2023.

Tony Parker and Pau Gasol played together in San Antonio during the 2018-19 season.

The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Class of 2023 nominees were announced Wednesday afternoon on ESPN’s “NBA Today”.

The star-studded list of candidates includes four virtual locks as first-ballot NBA selections: Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker.

Another former NBA star officially being considered again is Chauncey Billups, who played from 2000 to 2013. Others who were possible to reach nominee status and enter like Tim Hardaway Sr. this year – players such as Amar’e Stoudemire, Detlef Schrempf, Shawn Kemp and 1950’s All-Star Larry Foust – did not make the 2023 ballot.

In the three-step election process, the nominees announced Wednesday will get cut down in a list of finalists released Feb. 17 at NBA All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City. From that, the Hall’s Class of 2023 will be announced April 1 at NCAA Final Four Weekend in Houston.

The Naismith Hall’s enshrinement will be held on Aug. 12 in Springfield. The event is being moved into August from its traditional post-Labor Day date to coincide more with fans’ and guests’ summer schedules.

The number of marquee names in any given HOF class, by the way, is not by design but by calendar, based on a player being retired for at least four seasons before his possible election. So the first-ballot guys stepped away only a few years ago, playing their final games in 2018-19.

Still, it’s worth refreshing our memories of their greatness:

Dirk Nowitzki

Look back at Dirk Nowitzki's iconic career.

Arguably the greatest international player in NBA history, Nowitzki checks a bevy of boxes for Hall worthiness. Now 44, the 7-footer from Wurzburg, Germany, was an All-Star 14 times, an All-NBA pick 12 times and the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2007 when he led Dallas to a 67-15 record. His crowning achievement came in 2011 when he carried a good-but-not-great roster of role players to the NBA title over a heavily favored Miami Heat team and earned the Finals MVP award.

Nowitzki, an allegedly risky pick by the Mavericks at No. 9 in 1998, ranks sixth in career NBA points (31,560) and 26th in rebounds (11,489). He upped his regular season stats in the playoffs, from 20.7 points and 7.5 rebounds to 25.3 and 10.0 in 145 postseason games.

Nowitzki’s remarkable shooting skills– his iconic one-legged jumper will soon be commemorated in statue form outside the Mavericks’ arena – helped establish a new weapon for the game’s big men.

And like peers such as Bryant and Duncan, Nowitzki spent his entire 21-year career with one franchise.

Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade was an electrifying scorer who won 3 NBA championships.

Wade extended his excellence well beyond what most scouts imagined when he entered the league as the No. 5 pick out of Marquette in 2003, after LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Darko Milicic.

His career had at least two different chapters. First, he was the dynamo who sparked Miami to the 2006 NBA championship, a 24-year-old Finals MVP supported by veteran center Shaquille O’Neal. That version of Wade was in constant danger, or so it seemed, of breaking – he fell to the court time and again in his attacks on the basket, so often he even appeared in a commercial about it.

Later Wade morphed into a willingly complementary star alongside James and Bosh to form Miami’s “Big Three.” That group went to four Finals from 2011 through 2014, winning rings in 2012 and 2013, while ganging up for a team most fans either loved or hated.

Wade, 40, lasted 16 years, with late-career cameos with Chicago and Cleveland before finishing back in Miami. The Chicago native was a 13-time All-Star and eight-time All-NBA selection. And at just 6-foot-4, his 885 blocks ranks as one of basketball’s all-time combinations of size and swat.

Pau Gasol

Count down the Top 10 Plays from Pau Gasol's career.

Another international star on the 2023 ballot, an important factor for a Hall of Fame that captures not just NBA standouts but also those from around the globe, at all pro and amateur levels. The 7-foot native of Barcelona, Spain was the third player picked in the 2001 draft. He planted the Memphis Grizzlies’ flag in their new market after relocating from Vancouver, was that year’s Rookie of the Year and became an All-Star in 2006.

But Gasol’s trade to the Lakers in 2008 kicked his career to another level. He earned rings both in 2009 and 2010, got named to three All-Star teams there, then extended his career to 18 years with Chicago (his fifth and sixth All-Star berths) and San Antonio.

The classy Gasol – whose brother Marc became an All-Star and champion, and went to Memphis in that notorious Lakers trade – scored 20,894 points and grabbed 11,305 rebounds in his career.

Tony Parker

Go inside the career of Spurs legend Tony Parker.

Parker is poised now to complete the Spurs’ trinity, presuming he’ll join Duncan and Ginobili in the Hall. That group set records for togetherness and achievement, playing together longer and more successfully than any trio in NBA history.

Like Ginobili, Parker was part of four of San Antonio’s five NBA championships, a feisty point guard who arrived as the No. 28 pick in the 2001 draft (Ginobili went at No. 57 in 1999 but played in Italy until joining the others in 2002). Born in Bruges, Belgium, the 6-foot-2 point guard was the engine of San Antonio’s offense, though he had a rugged learning curve at times with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (who was nominated as well but has stated he does not want to enter the hallowed halls until he retires). Together they won rings in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014, with Parker snagging Finals MVP honors in ’07,

Now 40, Parker made six All-Star teams and four All-NBA squads. He averaged 15.5 points and 5.6 assists, enough to rank 56th and 19th respectively on the NBA all-time lists.

Chauncey Billups

A study in perseverance, Billups was six years and five teams into his NBA career when he took one of the most remarkable leaps ever. The No. 3 pick in 1997 by Boston, unfairly treated as consolation when the Celtics missed out on Duncan, was traded to Toronto in February of his rookie season. Eleven months later, he got packaged in a mega-deal to his hometown Nuggets, but injuries made him expendable again.

Billups went to Minnesota as a free agent and teamed with Garnett in a tandem ostensibly for the future – only to get squeezed out in payroll considerations. That landed the 6-foot-3 guard in Detroit … where he would play the next seven seasons and 482 games of the 1,043 in which he appeared with seven franchises in 17 years.

It was with the Pistons that Billups earned his nickname “Mr. Big Shot,” five All-Star selections and best of all his Finals MVP award in 2004. Detroit had an ensemble cast in that 2003-04 season, getting through Milwaukee, New Jersey and Indiana before topping the Shaq-Kobe Lakers in five games.

Now the head coach in Portland, Billups, 46, averaged 15.2 points and 5.4 assists. He appeared in 146 playoff games, all but 35 with Detroit.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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