Finalists for Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Announced

Celebrating the players who have been making an impact on and off the court for the last 25 seasons.

By Savannah Moore

The 15 finalists for the 2021 class of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame were recently announced, and the Women’s Committee selected four individuals to be considered for the 2021 Hall of Fame Class. Typically, anywhere from one to three women will be selected for enshrinement. Though each of these impressive athletes could easily deserve their place in the Hall of Fame, some have accomplishments that make them more likely candidates than others. Here’s a quick rundown of the nominees and my predictions for who makes the cut ahead of the official announcement in May.

Lock – Lauren Jackson

If Lauren Jackson isn’t chosen to be a part of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class there may be riots on the island of Australia. The daughter of two former Australian National team players, Jackson began playing basketball at age four and turned pro at sixteen. She became the youngest player on Australia’s National team at age sixteen and joined Australia’s Women’s National Basketball League. 

Lauren Jackson with her second of three MVP awards. (SOURCE: Rebecca Cook: Reuters)

By the time Jackson was eligible for the WNBA Draft she had already won a WNBL Championship, back-to-back WNBL MVPs, and a Silver Medal at the 2000 Olympics. Unsurprisingly, Jackson was selected number one overall in the 2001 WNBA draft by the Seattle Storm and in 2002 was paired with young point guard, Sue Bird. 

During her 12-year career in the WNBA Jackson won three MVPs, took home Defensive Player of the Year, was named an All Star seven times, and won two WNBA Championships. During this time she also won three more Olympic medals as a member of the Australian national team. Jackson officially retired in 2016, but hadn’t played a game since 2013 due to lingering injuries. Despite her career being cut short, Lauren Jackson is considered to be one of the greatest Australian basketball players of all time.

Likely – Leta Andrews

This is coach Leta Andrews’ fourth time being selected as a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Although she is never the biggest name on any list, Coach Andrews holds one of the grandest achievements in basketball. Over her fifty-two-year Texas high school coaching career, Andrews won 1,146 games. 1,146 victories are the most any high school coach has ever achieved, man or woman.. 

Along with that monumental achievement, Andrews also has sixteen Texas Final Four Appearances and won the State Championship in 1990. Andrews has already been inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and High School Basketball Hall of Fame. Hopefully, her wait is over for the Naismith Hall.

50-50 – Yolanda Griffith

Yolanda Griffith’s illustrious basketball career almost never happened. Griffith had to cancel her basketball scholarship from the University of Iowa before she ever set foot on the court. Yo was deemed academically ineligible as a freshman, and soon after found out she was pregnant with her daughter, Candace. Due to these circumstances, Griffith continued her basketball career at Palm Beach Junior College in Florida. 

(SOURCE: Jennifer Pottheiser / NBAE/Getty Images)

She became a two-time Junior College All-Star, while simultaneously working for a car repossession company, and raising her daughter. Griffith’s junior college success caught the attention of many Division I programs, but Griffith instead chose to transfer to a Division II school to give her daughter stability. In 1992, Griffith transferred to Florida Atlantic University, where she was named Division II Player of the Year in her 1993 senior season. 

With no professional league for women in the United States, Griffith took her talents to Germany and began her professional basketball career there. In 1996 the American Basketball League was formed, and Griffith was selected number one overall in the 1997 draft. 

Griffith was a force to be reckoned with in the league. In her first season Griffith was named ABL Defensive Player of the Year, and finished second in MVP voting, Yo looked to be on pace to secure MVP in her second season, but the ABL suspended operations before the season ended. Luckily, another women’s league launched operations around the same time as the ABL. Griffith was selected second overall by the Sacramento Monarchs in the 1999 WNBA Draft. 

Griffith was named MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in her first season, and led Sacramento to their first postseason appearance. Over her nine-year career she was known as one of the most dominant defenders and rebounders in the league. Griffith was named an all-star seven times, won a WNBA championship in 2005, and won two gold medals as a member of Team USA at the Olympics in 2000 and 2004. Yolanda Griffith’s legacy is one of perseverance, and now she is considered one of the best WNBA players of all-time, one certainly worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement.

Not Yet – Marianne Stanley

Coach Marianne Stanley’s basketball career started when she was a player at Immaculata College from 1972–1976. The 1972–1974 Immaculata College Women’s teams were inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2014 for their contributions to the growth of women’s college basketball. In 1975, she was a member of the first women’s collegiate basketball team to play in a televised game and the first to play at Madison Square Garden. 

(SOURCE: Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Coach Marianne Stanley’s basketball career started when she was a player at Immaculata College from 1972–1976. The 1972–1974 Immaculata College Women’s teams were inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2014 for their contributions to the growth of women’s college basketball. In 1975, she was a member of the first women’s collegiate basketball team to play in a televised game and the first to play at Madison Square Garden. 

After she was done playing, Stanley joined the Immaculata coaching staff. She was then hired to be the Head Coach of Old Dominion’s women’s basketball team, which shehe led to two AIAW national championships and an NCAA title in 1985. Stanley went on to coach at Penn, USC, Stanford, and California.

In 2000, Stanely was hired by the Los Angeles Sparks as an assistant coach. She got her first WNBA head coaching job with the Washington Mystics and was awarded coach of the year in 2002. She is currently the head coach of the Indiana Fever, and Stanley’s legacy is still growing. We may not see her in the Hall of Fame this year, but you can be certain her day will come.

The Class of 2021 will be revealed on May 16th. The Class of 2020, headlined by Kobe Bryant, will be inducted alongside the 2021 class at the ceremony in September.

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