The late Kobe Bryant is officially in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. During Saturday night’s induction ceremony, Bryant became immortalized in Springfield, as his wife, Vanessa, gave the speech of the night to celebrate his life and legacy while the great Michael Jordan, who considered Kobe a younger brother, stood by her side.
Vanessa Bryant “I can see him now with arms folded with a huge grin saying isn’t this some shit” pic.twitter.com/zc0K2ggd36
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 15, 2021
Vanessa made it a point say that while she did not know exactly what he’d say on that stage, Kobe would thank those who played a role in helping him get here, including one major group: his detractors.
"After all, he proved you wrong" – Vanessa Bryant pic.twitter.com/SdAWTtP5KD
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) May 15, 2021
“I do know that he would thank everyone that helped him get here,” Vanessa said. “Including the people that doubted him, and the people that worked against him, and told him he couldn’t obtain his goals. He would thank all of them for motivating him to be here. After all, he proved you wrong.”
One of the most powerful moments of the speech came when she listed off a number of the injuries that Kobe, who was known for playing through major bumps and bruises, suffered throughout his career. As she explained, all of it stemmed from a desire to make sure he was giving his all for the fans who paid money to see him, particularly those who would never get that opportunity again.
Kobe really never took a game off with ALL these injuries.
— Randy Cruz (@randyjcruz) May 15, 2021
Vanessa Bryant says Kobe Bryant told her he never wanted to miss a game due to injury because he never wanted to disappoint his fans pic.twitter.com/AWP9p3jow6
— Rob Lopez (@r0bato) May 15, 2021
Her speech was a perfect encapsulation of Kobe, as it discussed the life and legacy of an athlete who truly was one of a kind. She closed it with a beautiful address directly to her husband, letting him know that he may not be here now, but their love is forever.
The tears are flowing, what a beautiful speech from Vanessa Bryant
Mamba Forever ♾🐍 pic.twitter.com/ca4uOKc0QT
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) May 15, 2021
“Congratulations, baby,” Vanessa said. “All of your hard work and sacrifice has paid off. You once told me, ‘If you’re going to bet on someone, bet on yourself.’ I’m glad you bet on yourself, you overachiever. 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.”
Bryant’s induction in the class of 2020 was a formality ever since it was revealed he would retire following the 2015-16 season. His playing career was nothing short of spectacular, as Bryant was a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and an 18-time All-Star selection. Bryant spent the entirety of his basketball career in L.A., averaging 25 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game while earning praise for his tenacity on the defensive end of the floor.
Of course, this celebration doubles as a heartbreaking reminder of the accident that took his life and the lives of eight others, including his daughter, Gianna. But Saturday was still a reminder of his unique brand of excellence, and considering their relationship, there was no one better than Vanessa to induct him into Springfield.