Emotions Fill the Arena as Kobe Bryant and Others are Inducted Into the 2020 Class of the Basketball Hall of Fame

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It’s been going on a year and a half since NBA superstar Kobe Bryant’s devastating death on Jan. 26, 2020. Over the weekend, the sports world celebrated Bryant’s life and achievements as the “Black Mamba” was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

From the Washington Post:

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Basketball’s biggest names converged on the Mohegan Sun Arena for the Hall of Fame induction of Kobe Bryant, the headliner of a glittering 2020 class that included NBA stars Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, WNBA star Tamika Catchings, FIBA executive Patrick Baumann, NBA coach Rudy Tomjanovich and NCAA coaches Eddie Sutton, Kim Mulkey and Barbara Stevens. Their joint arrival was delayed for months by the coronavirus pandemic, and the solemn celebration took place in the shadow of the tragic death of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash.

During the Saturday night ceremony, NBA legends such as Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal shared the stage with Vanessa Bryant, who honored her husband by claiming his place as a Hall of Famer.

“Congratulations, baby,” she said. “All of your hard work and sacrifices paid off. You once told me, ‘If you’re going to bet on somebody, 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.”

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Vanessa received Kobe’s Hall of Fame ring and jacket. In an emotional moment, she put the jacket on their oldest daughter Natalia Bryant.

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Kobe was the last of nine Hall of Fame inductees to be announced Saturday, while the two first-ballot selections went to Duncan and Garnett, who both honored Kobe during their acceptance speeches.

More from the Post:

“[Kobe was] a fierce competitor and always demanding more of his team and his teammates than probably was possible,” said Duncan, whose Spurs faced Bryant’s Lakers six times in the playoffs. “He wanted to win that much.”

Garnett and Bryant both made the leap straight from high school and faced off in the 2008 and 2010 Finals.

“I got to see Kobe, and he was very young [and] not as polished as everybody got to see him,” Garnett said. “We used to always interact with that youthfulness, that kid persona. At the end, it was two very fierce competitors. That was our parallel: as much as he wanted to win, I wanted to win at the same time. I miss him every day.”

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During the ceremony, Bryant’s accomplishments and passion for the game of basketball were recalled in a video montage that included commentary from NBA greats like Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Jerry West, Shaq and Phil Jackson.

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At the end of the montage, Bryant can be heard saying, “The most important thing is how your career moves and touches those around you and how it touches the next generation.”