A trio of Lakers were part of those nominated for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2023 in former players Pau Gasol and Michael Cooper and former coach Paul Westhead. The class as a whole is a loaded one that also features Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich and Dwyane Wade.
Pau. Coop. Coach Westhead.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 21, 2022
Congrats to our 2023 Hall of Fame candidates! pic.twitter.com/shswFO6PL8
Gasol is in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame and has the strongest case of the former Lakers nominated. He averaged 17 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists for his career across 18 years. He was obviously a two-time champion with the Lakers and his massive importance to the team over those years is one of the strongest cases for his Hall of Fame career in the NBA.
That isn’t to say his resume isn’t full of other honors. He’s a 6-time All-Star, 4-time All-NBA selection and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2002. But where his hat is truly hung in regards to his Hall of Fame case is his international career. His accolades are extensive, including a pair of Olympic silver medals as well as being FIBA’s Europe Player of the Year twice, was the FIBA World Cup MVP in 2006, the top scorer in the 2014 FIBA World Cup and was FIBA EuroBasket MVP in 2009 and 2015.
Gasol will have his jersey retired by the Lakers this season on March 7 in a game against the Grizzlies, the team he began his career with. It’s almost certain that honor will be followed in 2023 by being one of the newest members of the Hall of Fame class.
Cooper is nominated for the third time in four years. While he may not be someone people consider to be a Hall of Famer, He’s a former Defensive PLayer of the Year and was one of the very best defenders of his generation while also being a vital part of the Showtime Lakers. He also features all over the Lakers’ all-time record books.
Silver Screen & Roll alum Sabreena Merchant spoke to Cooper after his first nomination, which he revealed how much even just being nominated meant to him.
“I got real emotional about that,” Cooper says. “For my role to lead to the doorstep of the Hall of Fame was very, very emotional for me and, you know, I want it now. As you play for a championship and you get close to it, and you finally win one, you want more, and we were able to get five. Well, now that my role has led to the doorstep of the Hall of Fame, I’m very, very thankful and blessed that it has. But now that I’m at the doorstep, I’m knocking because I feel and I think and sometimes I deserve, looking at some of the other people — I never hate on anybody — but one day that door’s going to open for me. And when it does, that will be probably the highlight of my basketball career.
“Right now the highlight of my career is having one of the greatest players who’s ever played this game, Larry Bird, say Michael Cooper was the hardest player for me to play against. That right there says a lot and from a little guy, skinny guy that everybody said could never make it, to have this guy say that about me — right now, that beats all the championships, that beats all the Defensive Player of the Year awards, that beats all the first-team defensive player awards,” Cooper continued. “That to me is kind of what I hang my hat on. But now if I’m able to get into the Hall, and I really do believe, one day, it’s going to happen.... if I’m able to get my jersey, my picture, my bust in there, then job well done, Coop.”
Westhead has been nominated for the Hall of Fame in the past. Lakers fans learned a fair bit about him in the last year via HBO’s series “Showtime.” He was the architect of the greatest dynasty in the franchise’s history and went on to have a lengthy NBA, WNBA and college coaching career.
The entire Class of 2023 will be announced during the NCAA Final Four weekend on April 1, 2023.