The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the Class of 2020 concluded Saturday night with Vanessa Bryant delivering an emotional speech commemorating the life and accomplishments, on and off the court, of the late Kobe Bryant.
Joined onstage by Michael Jordan, Vanessa reassured someone in the audience that she was okay, a brief yet encouraging statement from someone who has proven to be a pillar of strength in wake of the tragic event that occurred a mere 16 months ago. After thanking Jordan for participating in Kobe’s enshrinement, Bryant shared why she would always steer clear of publicly offering praise to the 18-time All-Star.
“I used to always avoid praising my husband in public because I felt like he got enough praise from his fans around the world, and someone had to bring him back to reality,” Vanessa said. “Right now, I’m sure he’s laughing in heaven because I’m about to praise him in public for his accomplishments on one of the most public stages.”
“I can see him now, arms folded, with a huge grin, saying, ‘Isn’t this some shit?,’” she continued.
The moment felt like something Kobe would’ve actually said on a day like today, but with Vanessa delivering this remark, it effectively let the air out of an emotionally-charged room. Bryant continued by expressing gratitude for his family, friends, mentors, the Los Angeles Lakers organization, teammates, muses, and opponents.
Vanessa spoke about his bout with a string of injuries, and how his fans and Jordan factored into his motivation to compete through the pain. She touched upon his most cherished accomplishment being the best girl dad. She also shared a few of her own personal thank yous to her late husband.
“Congratulations, baby. All of your hard work and sacrifice has paid off. You once told me, ‘If you are going to bet on someone, bet on yourself.’ I’m glad you bet on yourself, you overachiever,” she said. “You did it. You’re in the Hall of Fame now. You are 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.”
Watch Vanessa’s speech up top.