While delivering her speech at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Vanessa Bryant imagined her late husband Kobe Bryant’s reaction to hearing her praise.
“I can see him now, arms folded with a huge grin saying, ‘Isn’t this some s—,” Bryant said, noting that she rarely praised her husband in public and that he would get a kick out of her speech.
On Saturday, Kobe Bryant was posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, along with other NBA superstars like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Bryant was among a group of nine inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, more than a year after their induction was announced as the class of 2020.
Bryant, who won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, and his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, who was 13, died in a helicopter crash in January of 2020.
At the start of her speech, Bryant, wearing a purple dress that appeared to match the Los Angeles Lakers colors, was led to the stage by Michael Jordan.
“Kobe was on a different level,” Bryant said. “He never took shortcuts when it came to basketball. He gave this game his all.”
Bryant recalled how Kobe Bryant played through injuries, having IVs administered during halftimes and playing with a broken nose. She also recalled how her husband swished two free throws with a broken Achilles tendon, as the room applauded.
“That injury was big but his comeback from that injury was bigger,” Bryant recalled.
She said that her husband played through his injuries because he remembered seeing his favorite players — like Jordan — as he sat in the nosebleed section as a little kid, and Kobe Bryant didn’t want to disappoint his fans by not playing.
“If he could help it, he’d play every minute of every game. He loved you all so much,” Bryant said.
Bryant listed Kobe Bryant’s accomplishments, including being a New York Times best selling author and winning an Oscar, but added his biggest accomplishment was “being a girl-dad.”
She added that she didn’t have a list of people her husband wanted to thank, so, instead, she thanked him.
“He did the work. He broke those records. 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,” she said.
She also thanked Kobe Bryant for the family they created together.
“Dear Kobe thank you for being the best husband and father you could possibly be,” Bryant said. “Thank you for our family … thank you for loving me enough to last lifetimes and in every lifetime I chose you.”
Bryant closed out her speech by congratulating her husband on his accomplishment of being inducted into the hall of fame.
“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,” she said. “You’re in the hall of fame now … you’re an all-time great.”