Kobe Bryant was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday as part of the Class of 2020, with his wife, Vanessa Bryant, accepting the honor on his behalf.
Joined onstage at the ceremony in Uncasville, Connecticut, by Michael Jordan, whom the late basketball star idolized as a child, Bryant sp-oke movingly about the love her husband had for the game and his family more than a year after the Los Angeles Lakers star was k*ll-ed in a helicopter c***h.
“I used to avo-id praising my husband in public because I felt like he got enough pr-aise from his fans around the world and someone had to bring him back to reality,” she said at the start of her sp-eech. “Right now, I’m sure he’s laughing in he-av-en because I’m about to praise him in public for his accomplishments on one of the most public stages. I could see him know, arms folded, with a huge grin saying, ‘Isn’t this some sh*t?’ He’s still winning.”
“I wish my husband was here to accept this incredible award. He and Gigi deserve to be here to witness this. Gigi would be so proud to watch her daddy get enshrin-ed in the Basketball Hall of Fame,” Bryant continued.
The five-time NBA champion was elected into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility just three months after he and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were k*ll-ed in a helicopter c**** in Southern California along with seven others.
The formal induction ceremony, which also welcomed Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett into the Hall of Fame, was supposed to be held last year, but was postpo-ned due to the COVID-19 pandem!c.
In her speech, Bryant said that, in her late husband’s absence, she hoped to give thanks to all those who touched his life on and off the court.
“There will never be anyone like Kobe. Kobe was one of a kind,” Bryant said. “He was special, he was hu-mble off the court but bigger than life.
To all of our close friends and family that have been present for my girls and I, thank you. That list is long and it takes a village but know that your kindn-ess and love does not go unap-prec!ated. I know that Kobe is thankful that you’re all coming through for his girls. We love you and are forever grateful for you.”
She was joined at the ceremony with her three other daughters ― Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and Capri, 22 months ― with the group visiting a special exhibit at the Basketball Hall of Fame museum in Springfield, Massachusetts, honoring Kobe ahead of the event.
“If my husband were here tonight, he would have a long list of people to thank that helped inspire him and equip him to be in the Hall of Fame. Family, friends, mentors, the Lakers, teammates, muses and opponents,” Bryant continued. “This is one of the hard parts of not having him here. At the r**k of leaving anyone out, I can only say thank you. To all those who helped him get here, you know who you are and I thank you on his behalf.”
In a moment that made Jordan and the audience cr*ck a smile, Bryant then lovingly mentioned her husband’s famous work ethic and competitive drive.
“I do know that he would thank everyone that helped him get here, including the people that doubted him and the people that worked against him and told him he couldn’t att-ain his goals,” she said. “He would thank all of them for motivating him to be here. After all, he proved you wrong.”
Staying remarkably poised through the major!ty of the speech, Bryant began to tear up as she read aloud a message she wrote to Kobe in the style of his “Dear Basketball” letter, announcing his retirement from the sport back in 2015.
“Dear Kobe, thank you for being the best husband and father you can possibly be. Thank you for growing and learning from your own m!stak-es. Thank you for always trying to be better,” she said. “Thank you for never giving up on us. Thank you for all of your h*rd work. Thank you for our family, thank you for our daughters Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri. Thank you for working so t!rel-essly to provide for us and for giving us the most amazing life together.”
Bryant concluded her remarks by recalling a phrase of Kobe’s that has long since stuck with her: “If you’re going to bet on someone, bet on yourself.”
“I’m glad you bet on yourself, you overachiever,” she said, as her voice began to cr*ck. “You did it. You’re in the Hall of Fame now. You’re a true champ. You’re not just a MVP, you’re an all-time great. I’m so proud of you, I love you forever and always, Kobe Bean Bryant.”