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Legendary NBA player Kobe Bryant, who died in a plane crash last year with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday by equally legendary NBA giant Michael Jordan.
But because he was unable to accept the recognition, his widow, Vanessa, spoke on his behalf in an emotional speech lasting over 10 minutes.
She began the speech by revealing that she’d asked Jordan to appear at the event and introduce her husband for his induction into the Hall of Fame.
“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,” she said.
She then revealed a hilarious nugget from her past.
“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 s–t.’ He’s still winning,” she said.
That he is.
Watch the whole speech below:
“I wish my husband was here to accept this incredible award. 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. I know Kobe is really looking forward to being here,” she continued.
Though he was elected into the Hall of Fame posthumously, like other NBA giants, he’d long dreamed of the inevitable day when he too would be inducted into it. In fact, according to his widow, they’d spoken about the eventual day only weeks before his untimely death.
“A week before he and Gigi passed, my husband and I were sitting at our kitchen island, and he and I had a conversation about my mother- and father-in-law attending tonight’s enshrinement,” she said.
Kobe and Gigi died when a helicopter traveling with them from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, to Camearillo Airport in Ventura County, crashed into the side of a hill and caught on fire.
“The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others was trying to ascend above a fog-shrouded hill when it slammed into the ravine and dropped 2,000 feet per minute to the ground below, federal investigators said Tuesday,” BuzzFeed News reported at the time.
“Shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday, the Sikorsky S-76 chopper with nine people aboard climbed to about 2,300 feet seemingly in an attempt to clear the thick cloud layer. It hit part of a ravine in the Calabasas and fell, crashing in an area on the hillside 1,085 feet above sea level.”
An autopsy later determined that all of the passengers had died immediately upon impact.
Kobe Bryant, all others aboard helicopter died immediately in crash, autopsies show https://t.co/HOhZPD4500
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) May 16, 2020
After thanking Bryant’s parents for giving birth to “one of the most amazing human beings” and noting that her husband had been a “one of a kind” person, Vanessa then gave a shout-out to everybody who’d helped him rise to the top.
“We love you all and are forever grateful for you. If my husband were here tonight, he would have a long list of people to thank that helped him and that helped inspire him and equip him to be in the Hall of Fame: family friends, mentors, the Lakers’ teammates, muses and opponents,” she said.
“This is one of the many hard parts about not having him here. 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.”
She even directed some thanks at his biggest haters.
“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,” she said.
Jordan “cracked a big grin” at this portion of the speech:
“Kobe would thank all of the people who helped him get here, including the people that doubted him. After all, he proved you wrong.” Vanessa Bryant said
Michael Jordan cracked a big grin at that part of the speech pic.twitter.com/q54J2vmN6a
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) May 15, 2021
She eventually concluded by thanking the most important person of all — her husband.
“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 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,” Bryant said. “Thank you for bringing so much joy to our lives and joy for people around the world. Thank you for inspiring us to be better than the day before,” she said.
“Congratulations baby. All of your hard work and sacrifices paid off. 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.”
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