On Saturday, NBA legend Michael Jordan inducted his late friend and mentee Kobe Bryant into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The induction comes 18 months after the former Lakers star’s death in a helicopter accident.
The ceremony that was originally postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic took place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
Vanessa Bryant accepted Kobe’s award and gave a moving speech as Michael Jordan stood behind her.
“Last February, I called Michael and asked if he would introduce Kobe tonight, and he graciously accepted. Thank you for being here, Michael. Kobe admired you, this means so much to us,” Vanessa told Jordan.
She went on to say Kobe learned to appreciate his fans after watching MJ growing up.
“People don’t know this, but one of the reasons my husband played through injuries and pain was because he remembered being a little kid sitting in the nosebleeds with his dad to watch his favorite player play,” Vanessa said before looking in Jordan’s direction.
“He could recall the car ride, the convos, and the excitement of being lucky enough to have a seat in the arena. Kobe didn’t want to disappoint his fans, especially the ones in the 300 sections that saved up to watch him play. The kids with the same excitement he once had. I remember I asked him why he couldn’t sit a game out because he was hurting, he said, ‘What about the fans who 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,” she added.
At one point in her acceptance speech, Vanessa recalls the conversation she had with Kobe on the award.
“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 enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. I know Kobe was looking forward to being here. He asked the Hall of Fame to specifically add a sixth ticket for Capri, he was so happy,” she said of their youngest daughter.
“He didn’t really talk about upcoming awards, but he did mention this one a week before he and Gigi passed,” Vanessa continued.
“My husband and I were sitting on our kitchen island, and he and I had a conversation about my mother[in-law] and father-in-law attending tonight’s enshrinement. I invited my mother[in-law] and father-in-law to tonight’s enshrinement to thank them for bringing one of the most amazing human beings in this world. Pam and Joe, thank you for raising Kobe to be exceptional. Thank you to all of Kobe’s family. Sharia, you’ve gone above and beyond. I love you,” she said about her sister-in-law.
Kobe Bryant will always be remembered as one of the greatest NBA players of all time. Bryant played for the Lakers for 20 years, won five NBA titles, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and an 18-time All-Star. He also holds the record for the second-most points in an NBA game at 81.