By Zac Cornell
On Saturday, May 15th, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett were inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. Bryant, who passed away in January 2020, was an NBA legend on the court and a role model for many young athletes around the world. His award was presented by his role model, Michael Jordan, which was followed by an emotional acceptance speech from his wife, Vanessa Bryant.
“I don’t have a speech prepared by my husband because he winged every single speech,” Bryant said. “He was intelligent, eloquent and gifted at many things, including public speaking. However, I do know that he would thank everyone that helped him get here, including the people that doubted him and the people that worked against him and told him that he couldn’t attain his goals.”
“He would thank all of them for motivating him to be here” she continued. “After all, he proved you wrong.”
Vanessa spoke about Kobe’s determination and will to play through injuries, especially for the devoted fans that attended the games. She said he remembered his excitement as a child going to games with his dad to watch his favorite player, and he didn’t want any fans to lose out on that experience.
“People don’t know this, but one of the reasons my husband played through injuries and pain was because he said he remembered being a little kid, sitting in the nosebleeds with his dad to watch his favorite player play,” she said. “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 section that saved up to watch him play, the kids with the same excitement he once had.”
“I remember asking him why he just 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.”
In addition to talking about his commitment to his basketball career and fans, Vanessa offered more personal insights, highlighting Kobe’s extraordinary commitment to his family.
“Thank you for being the best husband and father you could possibly be,” Vanessa said. “Thank you for growing and learning from your own mistakes. Thank you for always trying to be better. Thank you for never giving up on us. Thank you for all of your hard work. Thank you for our family. Thank you for our daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri. Thank you for working so tirelessly to provide for us and for giving us the most amazing life together. Thank you for waking up at 4 a.m. to train, for making it home to kiss me good morning and for dropping our girls off at school only to go to practice, come home and pick up our girls from school whenever you could.”
“Thank you for never missing a birthday, a dance recital, a school awards show, show-and-tell or any games our daughters played in if your schedule permitted. Thank you for putting your love for our family first. Thank you for bringing so much joy to our lives and joy to people around the world. Thank you for inspiring us to be better than we were the day before. Thank you for teaching me, and all of us, to put someone else’s joy before our own.”
“Thank you for being so selfless and loving with a heart of gold. Thank you for never taking yourself too seriously. Thank you for your sense of humor. Thank you for your wit. Thank you for never telling me no and always letting me have my way, most of the time. Thank you for being patient and easygoing. Thank you for letting me burst your bubble every chance I got. Thank you for graciously taking all my harsh comebacks. Thank you for dishing them back.”
Vanessa finished her speech by congratulating Kobe for his accomplishments and will to bet on himself.
“Congratulations, baby. All of your hard work and sacrifice has paid off,” she said. “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.”
On the night before the induction, Vanessa and their eldest daughter Natalia (18) accepted a Hall of Fame jacket at the Tip-Off Celebration and Awards Gala at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. The following morning, the teen had to fly back to Los Angeles in order to attend her senior prom which was the same night as the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Vanessa later revealed on Instagram that she had missed her senior prom, as her then-fiance Kobe had a conflict with an NBA playoff game. Vanessa didn’t want Natalia to miss her senior prom as well.
Kobe was an outspoken advocate for female athletes and gender equality in sports. Vanessa revealed about Kobe, “His most cherished accomplishment was being the very best girl dad. 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.”