Chicago is the best basketball city in the world, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend is underway, and ahead of the ceremony on Saturday, inductees Kevin Garnett and Tamika Catchings gave the city that helped raise them an extra shoutout.
“Chicago gave me my swag. It gave me my attitude. It gave me a different presence,” Garnett told reporters. “Playing so many different types of players, so many intense players, so many players that were well-deserving of being right here where I’m at. I have never actually encountered that level of competition [and] that variety of different players. Nor have I played that many different areas of a place like Chicago.
“I learned a lot, man. I feel like coming from Chicago, I was able and prepared to play in the NBA after that. I had so much exposure to survivals, lessons, and I like to always give Chicago the credit, that it gave me that ‘it’ to actually go from high school to the league. So I always give homage to the West Side, I give homage to the South Side, the whole city of Chicago for my progression and me being ready for the NBA.”
Garnett was born in South Carolina, but he played his senior year of high school in Chicago where he was ultimately named the Illinois Mr. Basketball. He went on to immediately declare for the 1995 NBA Draft. From there, the rest is quite literally history.
Similarly, Catchings was born outside of Illinois, but she played some of her formative basketball years in the Chicagoland area. Catchings won the Illinois Ms. Basketball award the same year Garnett declared for the draft as a Sophomore at Adlai E. Stevenson High School. She would then move to Texas before having a standout career at Tennessee and eventually being drafted by the Indiana Fever 3rd-overall.
“First off, to talk about Chicago is legendary. And no offense. I know there are a lot of people here from different cities,” Catchings said. “But when you talk about Chicago basketball, the trash-talking, the skill set, all of that, going against (Marshall coach) Dorothy Gaters and all of her teams, for me it really was the opportunities of going against such great players that helped me develop. Not just on the floor there, but let’s talk about the streetball” (h/t Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago).
Both Garnett and Catchings may not have been fully born and raised in the Windy City, but the two HOFers clearly love the city all the same. If that doesn’t represent how much of an impact Chicago’s basketball culture holds, I don’t know what will.
Anyway, Chicago will continue to have some strong representation at the ceremony tomorrow, as Michael Jordan is scheduled to present Kobe Bryant alongside his wife Vanessa. You can catch the ceremony tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. CT on ESPN.