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At star-studded basketball Hall of Fame ceremony, a focus on relationships over rings

Dwayne Wade and his father
Dwayne Wade and his father

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The 2023 Naismith Hall of Fame class was enshrined Saturday in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The class was headlined by Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, the all-time winningest coach in NBA history.

Popovich has used big moments throughout his career to bring attention to issues like racism and police accountability. On this night, it was about the value of building relationships and how it means more than any wins or losses.

"All those wins or losses they fade away but those relationships stick with you forever and that's where the self-esteem and the self-satisfaction comes," Popovich told the audience. "We live in challenging times — I'm not gonna go into it — but the times we live in require that we relate to each other a whole lot better than we do right now."

Popovich had declined the Hall of Fame invite until the players who helped him win five championships were also enshrined, and he thanked them as he was presented by those players — David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. 

"There's one word to describe why I'm here, and that's, 'duh'. he said. "Those guys."

The French point guard was the last of the Big Three to be enshrined, joining Popovich on Saturday in the 2023 Hall of Fame class.

“Coach Pop. It starts with him,” Parker said, delighting the crowd with stories about Ginobili and Duncan.

"A little Frenchie, A little guy from Argentina, and a swimmer from the Islands. Who knew?" Parker said. "We won four championships together, and it was an honor to play with you guys."

The San Antonio Spurs had a major presence in this year's class. Becky Hammon was a six-time WNBA all star but found herself as an assistant coach for Popovich.

“I know you weren't trying to be courageous when you hired me," she said. 

Hammon was the first full time female assistant coach in the NBA. She became the first woman to serve as head coach when she stood in for Popovich after he was ejected from a game in 2020. 

"You changed the trajectory of my life and so many other girls and young women," she said.

Hammon is now the head coach of the world champion Las Vegas of the WNBA.

All of the players and coaches visibly teared up when they spoke about their families and friends.

Former Spur Pau Gasol gave a touching tribute to the late Kobe Bryant when talking about his time with the Lakers.

"[He was who] taught me what it took to win at the highest level. Who showed me how hard you had to work and the mentality you had to have in order to be the best. The commitment you had to make. What it meant and what it took to be a leader. Kobe," he said. "I wouldn't be here without you, brother. I wish more than anything that you and Gigi were here today with us. I miss you and love you."

And it's respect that holds a team together, according to Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki.

"That embodies the entire class for me in 23," he said. "I'm so excited to be a part of this class. Pau, Tony, D-Wade, I didn't always like you guys. We competed at the highest level. But there was always an appreciation of your guys' greatness so thank you guys."

Nowitzki also used his speech to thank his parents in his native German, telling them "Danke."

And the Miami Heat's Dwayne Wade invited his father up to the stage to end the night together.

 “This one is for my father. I love you, and I'm thankful for you." he said to his father, Dwayne Wade Sr., while embracing him. "We're in the Hall of Fame, dawg!"

This year's Hall of Fame class will certainly go down as one of the most diverse and international classes of all time, and one that puts relationships and connection front and center.

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