Lakers Legend Kobe Bryant was one of nine iconic figures who were enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 class on May 15.
His eldest daughter, Natalia, wore his Hall of Fame jacket while his wife Vanessa said the induction speech on his behalf. Kobe’s role model and NBA icon Michael Jordan presented the Hall of Fame honor.
“Last February, I called Michael and asked him if he could introduce Kobe tonight and graciously accepted,” Vanessa said. “Thank you for being here, Michael.”
Vanessa expressed how multifaceted Kobe was and talked about his love and dedication to basketball.
“Kobe was one of a kind. He was special. He was humble, off the court,” Vanessa said. “But bigger than life,”
Along with being a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Kobe was savvy in other fields including public speaking. Vanessa recalled how he “winged every single speech.”
In his youth, Kobe would sit in the nosebleed section with his father, Joe Bryant, to watch Michael Jordan play. This had a lasting effect on him as Kobe would always consider his fans even if it meant playing through injuries.
“He had IVs administered during halftime to play through food poisoning and the flu, he played with a broken nose, he had a broken finger and had it snapped back in place just enough to finish the game,” Vanessa said. “Kobe didn’t want to disappoint his fans, especially the ones in the 300 sections that saved up to watch him play.”
Vanessa, along with countless Lakers fans, remembers the day Kobe ruptured his Achilles tendon. Briefly after sustaining the injury, he took his free throws and walked off the court.
“I’ll never forget the look he gave me as he walked off the court that game,” Vanessa said. “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 the comeback from that injury was bigger.”
Kobe worked hard for the Lakers franchise, he holds the Lakers record for most points in a game (81 points against Toronto in January 2006), a season (2,832 during the 2005-2006 season) and career (33,643 points). Vanessa noted how his most esteemed accomplishment was being a girl dad to his daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri.
“Dear Kobe, thank you for being the best husband and father you could possibly be,” Vanessa said. “Thank you for always trying to do better.”
Fellow 2020 inductee Tamika Catchings was a childhood friend of Kobe. Their fathers played pro basketball in Italy at the same time and the two families spent time together. Catchings and Kobe went on to have successful careers with one franchise.
Inductees Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett acknowledged Kobe during their speeches. All four inductees retired in 2016.
“You’re at your best when you face the best and I want to say thank you to the late great Kobe Bryant, to [Garnett],” Duncan said. “You guys demanded the best out of me and it brought the best out of me, thank you guys.”