What do legendary BYU basketball coach Stanley Watts, BYU All-American center Kresimir Cosic and current BYU illustration professor Justin Kunz have in common? All three have been part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies.
Well, sort of. Watts and Cosic have been inducted as members. This past weekend, Kunz was honored as one of the two artists whose designs for a set of commemorative coins were unveiled during the event on September 6, which was broadcast on NBA TV.
The 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin pays tribute to the game of basketball and the coaches, players, referees and contributors who make it an exciting game to play and watch.
Kunz’s design for the obverse (heads) side features three players reaching for the ball in unison, reflecting how the sport of basketball has brought together diverse people around the world through a simple, universal and unifying athletic experience. It also includes a hoop rimming the edge, a net in the background and the inscriptions: LIBERTY, IN GOD WE TRUST and 2020.
The coin will be made with a curved surface, similar to the Apollo 11 and baseball commemorative coins, to emphasize the shape of the basketball.
“I hope it’s evident in my design that it’s both a celebration of the game and the people who play it. Because there are a lot of different people who play the game around the world,” Kunz said. “It’s not just about the hall of famers, the fact that it has such an incredible appeal around the world when it’s such a simple game. You just need a hoop and a ball. That’s what’s so cool about it to me.”
Kunz submitted his design to a contest that was open to the public and his design was chosen to be featured on the obverse side of the coin, while the reverse (tails) side depicts a basketball.
The submitted designs were reviewed by an internal committee at the U.S. Mint as well as representatives from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the Commission of Fine Arts, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
“What’s really exciting is that it’s an intersection of art, design and sports,” Kunz said. “They might seem like two different worlds, but this is one way in which artists can honor athletes and sports by celebrating the game of basketball.”
Kunz has previously designed more than 10 coins for the U.S. Mint as a member of the Artistic Infusion Program. Perhaps his most well-known was the 2017 portrayal of Lady Liberty that commemorated the 225th anniversary of the Mint’s coin production and was later named Best Gold Coin in the Coin of the Year Awards at the World Money Fair in Berlin. Recently, Kunz designed a new commemorative coin for BYU to celebrate the motto Inspiring Learning. Other past design work includes Andrew Jackson's Liberty, Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Commemorative Silver Dollar.
To learn more about the coin, visit the U.S. Mint’s website.