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A Spurs-centric look at the 2023 Hall of Fame class

The 2023 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony will have everything from former Spurs’ legends to former Spurs’ nemesis.

San Antonio Spurs v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich will enter the Hall of Fame together, closing the Big Three era. Who will be the next Spur to be enshrined?

Marilyn Dubinski: Depending on how deep the ties are supposed to be to define a player as a Hall of Fame “Spur” (for example, the Hall of Fame part of Pau Gasol’s career is with the Lakers), LaMarcus Aldridge stands the best chance in the immediate future, although he may not be a first balloter considering his relative lack of a postseason resume. After that, Kawhi Leonard likely does have a Hall of Fame resume by now, even if the peak of his career may have already passed.

Mark Barrington: As much as it pains me to say this, it’s going to be Kawhi Leonard. He’s one of the finest basketball players of the modern era, but his parting with the Spurs leaves a bad feeling in my soul. They say you shouldn’t hold grudges, but at my age, that’s one of the few things that I know I won’t lose my grip on.

Steve Kerr is also a player with Spurs connections that should eventually be in the hall, but most likely as a coach, not a player. The next Spur after him to enter the hall will likely be a guy they drafted this year, a young guy from France, who will join Tony Parker sometime in the 2040s.

Bruno Passos: Leonard should be a lock whenever he decides to go on permanent load management, and Patty Mills might be a sneaky play depending on how much his international play and efforts with indigenous groups are weighed. Basketball Reference puts LaMarcus Aldridge’s odds at roughly a coin flip right now (50.9%), which feels apt for him. (It’s also fitting that he’s right above Joe Johnson (50.6%), as both players put together accomplished careers that may fall just short of Hall-worthy in voters’ eyes.) It makes you wonder if those percentiles tick up much had Aldridge not only embraced the three-point shot at the very end of his career, but alas.

Among the three, Aldridge feels like the smartest statistical hedge given he’s now retired a second and probably final time and the uncertainty around the other two’s timing, but I’ll go with the safer floor and say Leonard.

Jesus Gomez: If we are counting Kawhi — and we absolutely should — it’s probably going to be him. It would be great if LaMarcus Aldridge made it and he might eventually but he’s not likely to get in soon. It took Chris Webber, who had a similar career, eight years to get in. Leonard is already 32 and he’s going to get in three years after retiring. The numbers say Kawhi is the safe bet.

Pau Gasol is also in this class. What’s your favorite memory of him as a Spur?

Dubinski: Gasol’s career with the Spurs was relatively brief in terms of playing time both due to age and injury trouble, so it’s hard to pinpoint a specific memory. Probably what I’ll remember him most for is he was a big part of the community, he helped bring the stretch five into Pop’s offensive repertoire, and his arrival brought a sense of relief knowing that a veteran of his caliber was replacing Tim Duncan (even if that level of play only lasted about half a season).

Barrington: I mostly remember Pau as a player who was well past his prime by the time he joined the Silver and Black. He was a good mentor for the locker room, but he could barely play for most of the time he was in San Antonio. His best moment as a Spur for me was when he was waived on March 1, 2019.

Passos: Having been in the locker room during the Pau Era, it’s hard to forget what kind of class act he was when speaking with the media after games, always willing to take the time to give well-thought answers even after a loss and when other players were, well, less enthusiastic to do so. You can see why he’s always been a favorite in the eyes of reporters beyond his accomplishments on the floor.

On the court, I appreciated the delicate balance of Pau navigating his declining athleticism with other ways to contribute at a high level. He truly extended his game to the three-point line while in San Antonio, remained a decently effective defender in drop coverage, and had some really fun chemistry with fellow Old Manu Ginobili, which I enjoyed writing about. He’s a classic case of a Spursy guy who only made his way to the 210 past his prime, which is both a little disappointing and perfectly on brand for the organization.

Gomez: I wasn’t a fan of the Gasol signing but I do remember Gasol being effective on defense against the Rockets in 2017. The Spurs were just having their bigs drop all the way down to the basket when James Harden attacked on pick and rolls to force him to pull up from mid-range or use a floater. He hadn’t mastered those shots yet so he was really struggling to score inside the arc. Pau didn’t have much mobility back then but he was smart and long and, more importantly, he understood the assignment. Moments like that showed why the front office thought he still had something to contribute.

Where does Dirk Nowitzki rank in your Spurs nemesis list?

Dubinski: I don’t know if I ever considered him a “nemesis”, even on the court. Tim Duncan usually held him in check, or at least they would wash out each other’s performances, so more often than not it took someone else going off to be the Spurs’ “nemesis”. Not to mention, there were always other personalities on the Mavs that absorbed all my hate — such as Mark Cuban, Jason Terry, Eduardo Najera, and even Vince Carter in 2014 — leaving very little room for the relatively mild-mannered Dirk to be on my list of nemeses.

Barrington: Dirk is just too good to be a ‘nemesis.’ He was so unconventional, a wizard and making shots that no one else would attempt back then. The Mavericks rivalry was real, but you just had to admire Nowitzki’s game, even if you didn’t want them to beat the Spurs.

Passos: There were rivals you loved to hate (see: Karl Malone, Jason Terry or literally any Laker) and those that inspired both fear and respect, which can be a little funkier to reconcile as a sports fan. With Nowitzki clearly being the latter, and given how long the Big Three Spurs and Nowitzki Mavs went at it as well as the heartbreak he delivered in 2006 alone, I think he deserves extremely high consideration. Not every antagonist needs to fit the classic villain role, like Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character in Serenity or The Rock in 127 Hours. If anything, Nowitzki going against type may even be another point in his favor. I’ll put him right at the top personally.

Gomez: At one point, no one scared me more than Dirk Nowitzki when he had the ball against the Spurs and his team needed a bucket. He was not a villain like Jason Terry or Chris Paul, but he was terrifying because he was just so hard to stop. You couldn’t play drop defense against him. You couldn’t really switch against him. He was going to get that one-legged fadeaway off no matter what. I never hated Dirk but definitely hated watching him against the Spurs, so he’s up there for me.