Springfield welcomes six new players this week. But for each of them, their places in the culture were already secured.
Basketball royalty will once again descend on Springfield this Saturday to welcome in the latest Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class. Nine new legends — six players and three coaches — will be presented and inducted in front of the 50 Hall of Famers expected to be in attendance.
The six players — Chris Bosh, Yolanda Griffith, Lauren Jackson, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace, and Chris Webber — come from significantly different backgrounds, but all meet in the middle with how profoundly they’ve impacted the game. As they earn their final stripes in Springfield, it’s time to take stock of how each one of these superstars came to cultivate a brand that stood for itself just as sharply as their winning play on the court.
- All-Star teams: 11
- NBA championships: 2 (2011-12, 2012-13)
- Estimated career earnings: $239,063,622
Chris Bosh came into the league as part of the legendary 2003 NBA Draft class, and has the honor of being the first in that group to enter the Hall of Fame. He made an impact immediately, earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Team and eventually helping build his Toronto Raptors into a playoff team by 2006-07.
A year later, he became a viral video star capable of the kind of comic antics we don’t tend to expect from pro ballers — an underrated aspect of his personality that didn’t stay underrated for long.
He led the league in scoring and rebounding in his final season in The Six before heading to Miami to win two championships alongside fellow ’03-ers LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Over his career, Bosh earned nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in salary alone.
Though a blood clot issue eventually cut his on-court tenure short, CB4 has not slowed down. He even picked up an endorsement deal with Xarelto upon his retirement.
Bosh’s music career began near the end of his time with the Heat when he collaborated with Gucci Mane and Rico Love on the track “Miss my Woe.” Now, Bosh has his own record company, Daddy Jack Records, which has released more music from Love, as well as Deborah Cox and Sariah. He is also a published author, and his book Letters to a Young Athlete is available now.
- All-Star teams: 8
- WNBA championships: 1 (2005)
- Olympic gold medals: 2 (2000, 2004)
It took far too long, but one of the early stars of the WNBA is finally getting her due. In her first season with the Sacramento Monarchs after spending time overseas and in the ABL, Yolanda Griffith led the W in scoring, rebounding, and blocks, and established herself as one of the best defenders the game had ever seen.
Between 2000 and 2005, she won two Olympic gold medals, a WNBA title, and the WNBA Finals MVP award.
Earlier this month, the WNBA released its list of the best 25 players of the league’s first 25 years. It came as no surprise to see Griffith, also a former league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, on the list. Since retiring, Griffith has spent much of her time as an assistant coach in college and the pros, and is available for public speaking engagements.
- All-Star teams: 6 WNBL, 7 WNBA
- WNBA championships: 2 (2004, 2010)
- Olympic medals: 3 silver (2000, 2004, 2008), 1 bronze (2012)
Jackson is a legend in the United States and abroad. The No. 1 overall pick by the Seattle Storm in 2001, Jackson won three WNBA MVP awards and two WNBA titles. In her native Australia, she won the WNBL MVP award four times, won five championships, and was inducted into the country’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.
As her pro career unfolded, Jackson became one of the most recognizable women’s basketball players on the planet. She won four Olympic medals with Australia, was the flag bearer for the nation at London 2012, and had her jersey retired by the Storm in 2016.
She was also vocal about the lack of endorsement opportunities for women athletes. Jackson had a deal with Nike, but even at the top of her game, the sponsorship landscape at the time wasn’t as populated as it is now.
But that doesn’t take a single thing away from the fact that she was as dominant as they come:
- All-Star teams: 10
- NBA championships: 1 (2007-08)
- Estimated career earnings: $195,132,032
Paul Pierce’s career as an energetic, charismatic public figure has endured far beyond his playing days. He was the face of the Celtics for a decade and a half and has his name littered over the storied franchise’s all-time lists; no one in C’s history made more threes or free throws than The Truth, no one had more steals, and only John Havlicek had more total points.
By the time he was done in Boston, Forbes pegged him as one of the top-100 highest-paid athletes in the world with a salary of $16.8 million and $2 million more in endorsements, including a lucrative deal with Nike.
Pierce won a championship in Boston in 2007-08 and had his number raised to the rafters in 2018. Since then, he has stayed in the game and the front of the basketball consciousness. He worked for ESPN as an on-air analyst from 2016-21 and has now shifted his focus to his new cannabis brand, Truth, a reference to his iconic nickname. He will brand his own edibles and cannabis lotions with the goal of getting his own strain of marijuana into dispensaries by 2022.
(In fact, after his recent unceremonious departure from ESPN, Pierce came back with a tweet saying he makes more with EthereumMax than he did with the Worldwide Leader.)
- DPOY Awards: 4 (2001-02, 2002-03, 2004-05, 2005-06)
- NBA championships: 1 (2003-04)
- Estimated career earnings: $87,800,795
It can’t be often that the Basketball Hall of Fame welcomes a player who never averaged double-figures in scoring in the NBA. But Wallace didn’t have to. He was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and averaged at least 10.7 rebounds per game for seven consecutive years in his prime. He won a championship with the Pistons in 2003-04, and his No. 3 jersey now hangs from the rafters in Detroit.
Not bad for a player from Virginia Union University who went totally undrafted.
Wallace made nearly $90 million in salary over his career, and had a sneaker deal with AND1. He’s been open about his struggles in retirement, and credited his interest in remote control racing with helping him cope with depression. As a result, Wallace started Wallace Motorsports, which distributes RC products nationwide.
Additionally, he’s now a co-owner and the president of basketball operations for the Grand Rapids Gold of the NBA G League.
- All-Star teams: 5
- All-NBA teams: 1 first (2000-01), 3 second (1998-99, 2001-02, 2002-03), 1 third (1999-00)
- Estimated career earnings: $178,230,697
Chris Webber is as worthy a Hall of Famer as anyone on this list, and he started building his resumé the moment he arrived at Michigan as part of perhaps the most important recruiting class in college basketball history.
He and the rest of Michigan’s Fab Five helped bring the Wolverines to two national title games and ignited interest in the sport with their style, flair, and skill. In the NBA, Webber added five All-Star appearances, the 1994 Rookie of the Year award, and five All-NBA nods.
But his business career, which has taken off since his playing days ended in 2008, might be even more prolific.
Fans may associate Webber-the-former-player best with his role as an NBA analyst on TNT, but his work extends to music, production, podcasting, collecting, cannabis, and even teaching. Webber has dabbled in restaurant ownership, produced tracks for Nas, and has taught a course on athlete activism at Morehouse College.
C-Webb’s production company, Webber-Gilbert Productions, has been around since 2012 and has produced more than 30 films. In January, it announced an upcoming series on that transcendent Fab Five recruiting class.
A month later, Webber announced that we would launch a $100 million fund to help minority-owned cannabis businesses with the goal of leveling the playing field in a predominantly white-led industry.