Saturday’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony was bittersweet.
Kobe Bryant officially became a member of the Hall of Fame along with eight other inductees, including his former rivals Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. The Lakers legend, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, was presented by his mentor and friend Michael Jordan. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, gave a powerful speech honoring the five-time NBA champion.
While it was impossible not to wonder what Kobe may have said to celebrate the incredible achievement, Vanessa did a tremendous job capturing what made her husband such an impactful figure both on and off the floor.
A few highlights from Vanessa’s speech:
— On avoiding publicly praising Kobe throughout his career: “Right now, I’m sure he’s laughing in heaven because I’m about to praise him in public for his accomplishments on one of the most public stages. I can see him now, arms folded, with a huge grin saying, ‘Isn’t this some s—?’ He’s still winning.”
— On what Kobe would have said: “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 attain his goals. He would thank all of them for motivating him to be here. After all, he proved you wrong.”
— On Kobe tearing his Achilles in 2013 and fighting through injuries: “I’ll never forget the look he gave me as he walked off the court that game. I knew it was bad. The crowd was cheering, and I was reassuring Natalia and Gianna that daddy would be OK just like any other injury. But as he walked into the tunnel, there was no wink, and there was no kiss blown my way. I could see the concerned look on his face. That injury was big, but his comeback from that injury was bigger. . . . I remember asking him why he couldn’t just sit a game out because he was hurting. He said, ‘What about the fans that saved up to watch me play just once?’ He never forgot about his fans. If he could help it, he would play every minute of every game. He loved you all so much.”
— On being thankful for Kobe: “He did the work. He broke those records. And he inspired people to be great. I want to thank him for somehow finding ways to dedicate time to not only being an incredible athlete, a visionary entrepreneur and storyteller, but for also being an amazing family man. . . . You did it. You’re in the Hall of Fame now. You’re a true champ. You’re not just an MVP. You’re an all-time great. I’m so proud of you. I love you forever and always, Kobe Bean Bryant.”
You can watch Vanessa’s full enshrinement speech below.