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Bryant said Kobe and Gigi ‘deserve to be here to witness this’
Vanessa wrote and delivered the emotional speech that brought tears and laughter to all that loved him. “If my husband were here tonight, he would have a long list of people to thank that helped inspire him and equip him to be in the Hall of Fame,” she said. “Family, friends, mentors, the Lakers, teammates, muses, and opponents.”
Vanessa said Kobe’s absence makes times like this even more difficult. “This is one of the many hard parts about not having him here,” she said. “At the risk of leaving anyone out, I can only say thank you. To all those who helped him get here, you know who you are, and I thank you on his behalf.”
Kobe was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2016, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside other basketball greats, like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Tamika Catchings. Kobe died in a helicopter accident in January, 2020 alongside his daughter, Gigi, and seven others.
Standing beside Vanessa at the ceremony was Michael Jordan, who she said was his favorite player of all time.
“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,” Vanessa said, looking back at Jordan. “He could recall the car ride, the convos and the excitement of being lucky enough to have a seat in the arena.”
Vanessa continued, “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.”
In one humorous moment, Vanessa told the audience she knew Kobe was watching down on her, laughing at her speech.
“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. 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,’” causing the crowd to erupt in laughter.
Bryant wrapped up her speech, her voice cracking, saying, “You did it. You’re in the Hall of Fame now. You’re a true champ. You’re not just an M.V.P. You’re an all-time great. I’m so proud of you. I love you forever and always, Kobe Bean Bryant.”