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Emotional Vanessa Bryant pays tribute to Kobe as he’s inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame

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An emotional Vanessa Bryant paid tribute to her husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant, as he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame by Michael Jordan on Saturday.

Kobe, 41, was enshrined in the Hall of Fame 15 months after he and his daughter Gianna, 13, were killed in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020.

Jordan held Vanessa’s hand as he walked her to the stage where she gave her emotional speech about the late Lakers legend.

‘Last February, I called Michael and asked him if he would introduce Kobe tonight and he graciously accepted. Thank you for being here, Michael. Kobe admired you. This means so much to us,’ Vanessa said.

The widow, 39, joked that she used to avoid praising her husband in public because ‘he got enough praise from his fans.’

‘Someone had to bring him back to reality. Right now, I am sure he is laughing in heaven because I’m about to praise him in public for his accomplishments on one of the most public stages,’ she said.

‘I can see him now, arms folded, with a huge grin saying, isn’t this some s**t? He is still winning.’

An emotional Vanessa Bryant paid tribute to her husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant , as he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame by Michael Jordan

Vanessa told the audience at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut that she wished her husband was able to accept the award

Vanessa told the audience at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut that she wished her husband was able to accept the award

Bryant had been helped to the stage by Michael Jordan, who inducted Kobe into the Hall of Fame on Saturday

Bryant had been helped to the stage by Michael Jordan, who inducted Kobe into the Hall of Fame on Saturday

Vanessa Bryant is greeted by presenter Michael Jordan after speaking on behalf of Class of 2020 inductee, Kobe Bryant during the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Mohegan Sun Arena

Vanessa Bryant is greeted by presenter Michael Jordan after speaking on behalf of Class of 2020 inductee, Kobe Bryant during the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Mohegan Sun Arena

Vanessa Bryant looks at Michael Jordan during the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Mohegan Sun Arena

Vanessa Bryant looks at Michael Jordan during the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Mohegan Sun Arena

Class of 2020 inductees Tim Duncan and Vanessa Bryant (accepting for her late husband Kobe Bryant) stand together on-stage during the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Mohegan Sun Arena

Class of 2020 inductees Tim Duncan and Vanessa Bryant (accepting for her late husband Kobe Bryant) stand together on-stage during the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Mohegan Sun Arena

Vanessa told the audience at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut that she wished her husband was able to accept the award, and that he had been looking forward to attending the enshrinement ceremony.

‘He and Gigi deserve to be here to witness this. Gigi would be so proud to watch her daddy get enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame,’ she said.  

She added that Kobe had asked the Hall of Fame to specifically add a sixth ticket for their daughter Capri.

‘He was so happy. He didn’t really talk about upcoming awards, but he did mention this one a week before he and Gigi passed,’ she said. 

During her speech, Vanessa said that ‘there will never be anyone like Kobe’ and called her late husband ‘one of a kind.’

‘He was special. He was humble, off the court. But bigger than life,’ she said.

She thanked the ‘village’ that has helped her and Kobe’s surviving children in the aftermath of his tragic death.

‘I know that Kobe is thankful that you are all coming through for his girls. We love you all and are forever grateful for you,’ she said.

Vanessa said that If her husband had been able to give his speech he would have had ‘long list of people to thank that helped him, that helped inspire him and equipped him to be in the hall of fame: family, friends, mentors, the Lakers, teammates, muses and opponents.’

She said that Kobe had not prepared a speech for the honor before his death because ‘he winged every single speech.’

‘He was intelligent, eloquent, and gifted at many things, including public speaking,’ she said. ‘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 he couldn’t attain his goals.

‘He would thank all of them for motivating him to be here. After all, he proved you wrong.’

Bryant with his daughter Gianna, above, in July 2018 at a national swimming meet in Irvine California. Gianna, who was also known as Gigi, had aspired to play basketball in the WNBA. After Bryant retired in 2016, he cofounded the Mamba Sports Academy two years later. Bryant had dubbed himself the Black Mamba. He had coached his daughter, Gianna, and her team at its training center. They were on their way to the center when their helicopter crashed in January 2020

Bryant with his daughter Gianna, above, in July 2018 at a national swimming meet in Irvine California. Gianna, who was also known as Gigi, had aspired to play basketball in the WNBA. After Bryant retired in 2016, he cofounded the Mamba Sports Academy two years later. Bryant had dubbed himself the Black Mamba. He had coached his daughter, Gianna, and her team at its training center. They were on their way to the center when their helicopter crashed in January 2020 

Comparisons between Bryant and Jordan were already underway when he had been in the league for a year. Bryant said in 1997: 'When I have the chance to guard Michael Jordan, I want to guard him. I want him. It's the ultimate challenge. I don't want to be the next Michael Jordan, I only want to be Kobe Bryant.' Above, Bryant and Jordan talk during a free throw attempt during a 1997 game between the Lakers and the Chicago Bulls

Comparisons between Bryant and Jordan were already underway when he had been in the league for a year. Bryant said in 1997: ‘When I have the chance to guard Michael Jordan, I want to guard him. I want him. It’s the ultimate challenge. I don’t want to be the next Michael Jordan, I only want to be Kobe Bryant.’ Above, Bryant and Jordan talk during a free throw attempt during a 1997 game between the Lakers and the Chicago Bulls

Bryant famously feuded with his teammate, Shaquille O'Neal, when he first entered the league. O'Neal called the then teen rookie 'Showboat.' But they won three consecutive championships together in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and made it to the NBA finals in 2004. In 2010 after Bryant won his fifth title, he said: 'I just got one more than Shaq. So you can take that to the bank.' They reconciled later on and are seen above in March 2017 at the Staples Center

Bryant famously feuded with his teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, when he first entered the league. O’Neal called the then teen rookie ‘Showboat.’ But they won three consecutive championships together in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and made it to the NBA finals in 2004. In 2010 after Bryant won his fifth title, he said: ‘I just got one more than Shaq. So you can take that to the bank.’ They reconciled later on and are seen above in March 2017 at the Staples Center

Vanessa said that Kobe’s personal stats ‘speak for themselves’ and that he was ‘on a different level,’ adding that he ‘never took shortcuts when it came to basketball.’

‘Kobe played through injury after injury,’ she said. ‘He had IVs administered during half-times to fight food poisoning and the flu. He played with a broken nose. He had a broken finger and had it snapped back in place just enough to finish the game.

She added: ‘He also taught himself how to use his left hand to play the rest of the season while his finger healed. He even switched two free throws with a torn Achilles and walked off the court on his own.’

Vanessa told fans that she will never forget that game, which happened April 12, 2013 during game 80 of the Lakers’ regular season, as noted by Bleacher Report. The team went on to win the game.

‘I knew it was bad. The crowd was cheering and I was reassuring and telling Gianna that daddy would be okay,’ she said.

‘As he walked into the tunnel there was no wink and there was no kiss blown my way. I could see the concerned look on his face. That injury was big. But his comeback from that injury was bigger.’ 

Vanessa said that Kobe played through his injuries because he didn’t want to disappoint his fans – especially those in the 300 sections ‘that saved up to watch him play.’  

‘I remember asking him why he couldn’t just sit a game out because he was hurting. He said, ‘What about the fans that saved up to watch me play just once?’ He never forgot about his fans,’ she said.

Despite his numerous awards, Vanessa said: ‘His most cherished accomplishment was being the very best girl dad.’

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after being taken out of a 2016 game in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after being taken out of a 2016 game in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors

Since Kobe was not able to thank those that helped him in his career, she instead thanked Kobe saying: ‘He did the work. He broke those records. And 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 then launched into a message directed to her late husband, in which she thanked him for ‘never missing a birthday, a dance recital, a school awards show, show-and-tell, or any games our daughters played.’

Tim Duncan, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 with Bryant, said during his speech: ‘I want to say thank you to the late, great Kobe Bryant.’

During Kobe’s induction, the NBA also played a video in which his colleagues and competitors honored his skills on the court.

Ray Allen said: ‘As a rookie, it was like he acted as if he belonged already. He played without fear.’

Allen Iverson explained that Kobe ‘was just different from everybody else.’ 

‘Like I knew that I had to come with it. I am not talking about certain possessions. I mean every possession. He was second to none,’ he said.

Shaquille O’Neal praised Kobe’s ‘mamba mentality’ noting that he wanted to be the number one basketball player ever.

‘Down by one, a couple seconds left, he knew where the ball was going and he dared you to stop him,’ O’Neal said.

Steve Nash said Kobe’s legacy has ‘impacted so many people on and off the court’ all over the world.

‘On top of being the very, very top of the game. There is something in him that transcended basketball,’ Nash said.

Read Vanessa Bryant’s moving message to Kobe during the Basketball Hall of Fame induction 

Dear Kobe, 

Thank you for being the best husband and father you could possibly be. 

Thank you for growing and learning from your own mistakes. 

Thank you for always trying to do 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 daughter: Natalia, Gianna, Bianca, 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 4am 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 if your schedule permitted. 

Thank you for putting your love for our family first. 

Thank you for bringing so much joy to our lives. 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 easy going. 

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.

Thank you for being theNoah to my Allie [a reference to The Notebook].

Thank you enough to last five times, and every lifetime I choose you. 

To our girls, Natalia and Gianna, thank you for sacrificing so much time away from daddy so that he could focus on being the best at everything he set his mind to.

D., Bianka and Capri, I am so happy you are here to see this tonight. Daddy was incredible. He loves you girls so very much. 

Congratulations, baby. All of your hard work and sacrifices paid off.

You once told me, if you are going to bet on someone, bet on yourself. I’m glad you bet on yourself, your 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.

HOW ARE HONOREES PICKED FOR THE BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME?

Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891

Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891

Named for Dr. James Naismith, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is located in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he invented the game back in 1891.  

Traditionally the classes are announced in April and honored in Springfield in late August, but the 2020 ceremony was postponed to 2021 and relocated to Connecticut due to the pandemic.

Despite the disruptions, the process for electing nominees has remained the same, more or less. 

Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which primarily consider men who played or coached professionally in North America, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame honors players, coaches, and contributors from all areas of the sport, such as the NBA, WNBA, NCAA, and foreign leagues. 

Both players and coaches must be retired for four full seasons before they can be considered for enshrinement.

For the most part, finalists are picked by one of two committees: North American (nine members) and Women’s (seven members).

North American candidates, which includes NBA players, must receive 7 of 9 votes to become a finalist, while Women’s committee nominees require 5 of 7 votes to become a finalist.

If a nominee fails to get a vote from his or her respective committee for three consecutive years, they will be removed from the ballot for five years, but can be reconsidered in the future if they receive a single vote in any three-year period.

The maximum number of finalists that may be chosen are 10 by the North American committee and four by the Women’s committee.

Finalists are then considered by the BHOF Board of Trustees, which includes the likes of former Connecticut men’s coach Jim Calhoun and ex-NBA star Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The Trustees are not the final word on induction, but they can veto a candidate if that person has damaged the integrity of the game in any way.

From there, finalists are voted on by the Honors Committee, which is made of a dozen permanent members and 12 rotating members. A finalist must garner 18 votes from the 24 anonymous voters in order to secure induction.

There are also four direct-elect committees that can choose other candidates for enshrinement, forgoing the Honors Committee entirely. Those committees include the Contributors, the Early African-American Pioneers, the International Game, and the Veterans, the latter of which considers candidates who have been away from basketball for 35 years or more. 

Saturday's ceremony won't be held at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts (pictured) because it was relocated to Connecticut due to the pandemic, which also delayed the induction from August until May

Saturday’s ceremony won’t be held at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts (pictured) because it was relocated to Connecticut due to the pandemic, which also delayed the induction from August until May 

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