Vanessa Bryant made Kobe Hall of Fame induction a joyous occasion for all – The Undefeated

UNCASVILLE, Connecticut – Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020 inductees read their speeches on May 15 on a large screen with a 10-minute clock underneath to keep them on time . But when Vanessa Bryant took the stage to honor her late husband, Kobe Bryant, there was no stopwatch.

She would have all the time she needed.

“I would have liked my husband to be there to accept this incredible price. Him and Gigi deserve to be here to testify, ”said Vanessa Bryant during her speech. On January 26, 2020, Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, died in a helicopter crash in California. “Gigi would be so proud to see her dad entered the Basketball Hall of Fame. I know he couldn’t wait to be here. He didn’t really talk about the upcoming awards, but he did mention this one a week before he and Gigi passed away.

Kobe Bryant was posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15, a ceremony that was delayed nearly nine months by the coronavirus pandemic.

The weekend was rich in tributes to Bryant, starting May 14. Throughout the Hall of Fame induction press conference, other laureates spoke with reverence, love and appreciation.

Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva told The Undefeated that Vanessa Bryant visited Kobe Bryant’s new exhibit on May 14 for the first time at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, in about an hour’s drive from where the induction ceremony was held. taking place at the Mohegan Sun Casino. The Kobe Bryant exhibit at the newly renovated Hall of Fame was created through a collaboration of Vanessa Bryant, the trading card company Panini America and others.

The exhibition, called Kobe: basketball life, includes a video tribute, iconic footage from Hall of Fame photographer Andrew Bernstein, vintage jerseys, shoes and basketballs, reading of Bryant’s Oscar-winning film, Dear Basketball, and much more.

“I really hope she liked it,” Doleva told The Undefeated, adding that he thought the exhibit will be the most popular part of the Hall of Fame.

At the Hall of Fame Celebration and Awards Gala on May 14, Hall of Fame jackets were presented to inductees. Garnett’s orange sports coat was presented to him by his two daughters. Duncan’s was introduced to him by his former San Antonio Spurs teammate Tony Parker. When it was the Bryant family’s turn, Vanessa Bryant put the jacket on her teenage daughter Natalia. Perhaps overcome with emotion or to put her daughter in the spotlight, Vanessa Bryant walked off the stage as her daughter stood, wearing the oversized coat as the photographers’ bulbs flashed. Natalia Bryant stood among Hall of Fame inductees on stage for a group photo after the ceremony.

Following the awards ceremony, Vanessa and Natalia Bryant spoke to female basketball legends and Hall of Fame inductees Tamika Catchings and Barbara Stevens, as well as Hall of Fame member Nancy Lieberman at said a source. The late Gianna Bryant was an aspiring basketball star and a huge fan of women’s basketball.

Later that night, the Bryant family attended a private dinner at TAO Asian Bistro & Lounge at Mohegan Sun Casino with former Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and vice president of Nike of global basketball and sports marketing Nico Harrison. It would be hard to find three men closer to Bryant than Gasol, Pelinka and Harrison.

As the Hall of Fame induction program began on May 15, Kobe fans in attendance began chanting, “Kobe! Kobe! Many of them wore Bryant’s old Lakers jerseys or some other type of paraphernalia that honored him. Lakers fan John Roberson flew from Los Angeles to Hartford, Connecticut, so he could see his beloved Bryant enter the Hall of Fame.

“I’m here to represent the Black Mamba and the Lakers organization,” said Roberson, who wore a Lakers mask and “Black Mamba” tie at the Hall of Fame dinner on May 14. “I’ve been a fan since 1978. I wouldn’t miss that for the world. Kobe’s death was heartbreaking. … It really touched us, but we had to be here to show and represent.

Garnett was the first of the inductees to speak and concluded his speech by looking at Duncan in the front row and saying, “It’s an honor to go into the room with you and ‘Kob’. Duncan also praised the “late great Kobe Bryant” during his induction speech.

Former NBA head coach Rudy Tomjanovich also mentioned Bryant during his Hall of Fame speech when speaking about the greatest players he has coached in his career. Tomjanovich coached Bryant with the Lakers in the 2004-05 season.

“I was able to coach the great Kobe Bryant, who delighted us for 20 years until his last game,” said Tomjanovich.

The Hall of Fame saved the most anticipated inductee to last. After being introduced by host Ahmad Rashad, Vanessa Bryant took the stage accompanied by Michael Jordan. It was Vanessa Bryant’s first public speech since her husband’s memorial at Staples Center on February 24, 2020.

Vanessa Bryant said during the induction speech that she called Jordan in February 2020 to ask if he could escort her to the Hall of Fame stage for the speech. She also told a story of how Bryant and his father used to buy tickets for nosebleeds in his hometown of Philadelphia to watch Jordan play. That memory played a role in how Bryant didn’t want to miss games, knowing that people were paying hard-earned money to watch him.

“Thank you for being here. Kobe admired you. It means a lot to us,” said Vanessa Bryant.

Vanessa Bryant was keen to say that she had invited Bryant’s parents, former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and Pam Bryant. A source told The Undefeated that they did not attend the Hall of Fame ceremony, but that one of his two sisters, Sharia, was present.

Among Vanessa Bryant’s friends in attendance were singer Ciara, actress La La Anthony and WNBA New York star Liberty Sabrina Ionescu. Ciara and her husband, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Anthony and Ionescu took photos with Vanessa Bryant after Saturday’s ceremony.

Gasol and his wife, Catherine McDonnell, took the stage after the ceremony. Gasol left Barcelona, ​​Spain, where he now plays for FC Barcelona, ​​to attend the ceremony. The great Magic Johnson of the Lakers and the great Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics were also present.

Vanessa Bryant declined to specifically mention any of her late husband’s former teammates, coaches and mentors in her speech, but thanked them all.

“If my husband were here tonight he would have a long list of people to thank who inspired and equipped him to be in the Hall of Fame. Family, friends, mentors, the Lakers, teammates, muses and opponents, ”said Vanessa Bryant. “It’s one of the many difficulties not having them here. At the risk of leaving anyone out, I can only say thank you. To everyone who helped him get here, you know who you are and I thank you on his behalf.

Vanessa Bryant looked at her late husband’s basketball accolades, talking about his notable stats, legendary accomplishments, and unmatched work ethic. She also thanked Bryant’s enemies.

“I know he would thank everyone who helped him get here, including those who doubted him and those who worked against him and told him he couldn’t achieve his goals. He would thank them all for motivating him to be here, ”she said. “After all, he proved you wrong.

She also spoke about her dedicated, energetic and passionate father and their love for each other.

“Thank you for never missing a birthday, dance recital, school awards show, storytelling show, or any other game our girls played that your schedule allowed. Thank you for making your love for our family a priority, ”she said.

After the ceremony, she took the stage with her two youngest daughters, Bianka and Capri, to take photos with Kobe Bryant’s Hall of Fame trophy. (She said Natalia wasn’t at the awards show because she was attending her prom.)

Vanessa Bryant’s hope was to make her late husband’s Hall of Fame induction a joyful celebration, not a memorial, a source told The Undefeated. On May 15, she wore a stunning purple dress rather than a dark black that she wore to her memorial last year. She was also shown in a photo smiling and holding a commemorative Hall of Fame jersey with “BRYANT” and “20” on the back. Vanessa Bryant showed strength and didn’t shed a tear. She definitely has the Mamba mentality too. She even displayed a sense of humor in her speech.

“Right now I’m sure he’s laughing in heaven, because I’m about to congratulate him in public for his accomplishments on one of the most public stages,” she said. “I can see him now, arms crossed, with a huge smile saying, ‘Isn’t that a little …’.

“He always wins.”

Kobe Bryant is now in the Hall of Fame forever. And in his name, his better half has done him justice with his words, his presence and his strength.

“You did. You are now in the Hall of Fame,” said Vanessa Bryant. “You are a true champion. You are not just an MVP. You are an all-time greats. love forever. Kobe. Bean. Bryant. ”

Marc J. Spears is the NBA Senior Writer for The Undefeated. He was able to dive on you, but he hasn’t been in years and his knees still hurt.


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