WEARING ROYAL Laker purple, Vanessa Bryant poured her heart out when she delivered an acceptance speech on behalf of her late legendary basketball player husband Kobe Bryant after he was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a little over a year since he and his 13-year-old daughter perished in a helicopter crash along with seven others.
A tearful Vanessa Bryant spoke about her late husband’s talents on and off the basketball court during his posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame[/caption]
Standing by her side during her speech in Connecticut was fellow Hall of Fame great Michael Jordan[/caption]
Through the revering of the renaissance man’s skills on and off the court – she admitted his and her daughter’s absence is all too palpable. “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 in the Basketball Hall of Fame,” according to People Magazine which documented the speech.
Flanking the 39-year-old mother on the Mohegan Sun resort stage in Uncasville, Connecticut was none other than Bryant’s childhood hero and fellow Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.
“Last February, I called Michael and asked 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.
The emotional speech had Vanessa Bryant speaking about how he played through pain and injury just like Michael Jordan did[/caption]
Through tears, the widow to one of the most talented athletes in hoop history admitted she was not big on stroking the superstar’s ego.
“I used to 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 could see him know, arms folded, with a huge grin saying, ‘Isn’t this some s—?’ He’s still winning,” she joked.
Kobe and Vanessa met in 1999 when he was 20 and she was 17 on the set of a music video, People reported.
The memorable event also cheered the induction of Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett as well as LSU women’s coach and former Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, former Bentley coach Barbara Stevens, four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings, two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich, three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton and former FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann, according to NBC Connecticut.
The big event was special for Kobe Bryant, a player who initially wore number 8 before he changed up to inspire a league to don the number 24 jersey. (It was pushed back from its original August 2020 date due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the New York Times.
Kobe Bryant’s Laker jersey numbers 8 and 24 were both retired[/caption]
Kobe Bryant was a huge presence off the court as a father and mentor to fellow basketball greats[/caption]
Vanessa mentioned how the proud father had spoke about the big day “a week before he and Gigi passed” and was giddy because he had secured an additional ticket for his youngest charge.
“I know Kobe was looking forward to being here. He asked the Hall of Fame to specifically add a sixth ticket for Capri, he was so happy,” she said.
Charismatically, Vanessa Bryant tried to speak with the same wit and gifted candor that Bryant naturally exuded.
“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. Family, friends, mentors, the Lakers, teammates, muses and opponents. This is one of the hard parts of 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 said to much applause, according to People.
But she also noted the ones who tried to stop or impede him from reaching the glorious heights were also part of the fabled story that made Kobe Bryant such a fierce competitor.
She particularly took time to pay homage to “the people that doubted him and the people that worked against and told him he couldn’t attain his goals.”
To those, she said her late husband “would thank all of them for motivating him to be here.”
“After all, he proved you wrong.”
It wasn’t all Hollywood glitz and glamour for the basketball talent who skipped college to go pro back in 1996, according to FOX Sports.
There were plenty of bad injuries that the dedicated athlete played through.
“Kobe was on a different level, he never took shortcuts when it came to basketball. He gave this game his all. Kobe played through injury and injury,” she said.
“To name a few: he had IVs administered during halftimes to play through 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; he also taught himself how to use his left hand to play the rest of the season while his finger healed; he even swished two free throws with a torn Achilles and walked off the court on his own.”
That injury, which can be career-ending was particularly memorable because her husband was deeply hurting.
“I’ll never forget the look he gave me as he walked off the court that game. I knew it was bad. The crowd was cheering and I was reassuring Natalia and Gianna that daddy would be okay just like any other injury. But as you 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.”
She again turned to Michael Jordan and told him he never stopped even when banged up because his “favorite player” being Jordan played through the same kind of pain.
On days when most larger-than-life star athletes might take a day or two to mend, Vanessa Bryant said her husband lived to please his fans.
“I remember I asked him why he couldn’t sit a game out because he was hurting, he said, ‘What about the fans who saved up to watch me play just once?’
“He never forgot about his fans.”
Throughout the list of accomplishments like Olympic gold medalist, Oscar winner, a best-selling author that she ticked off, none seemed more esteemed than the man who was there for his children – doing the mundane school dropoffs and pickups as well as doing all he could to never miss one of his children’s recital or performance.
She heralded these particular off-court great moments in a letter she had penned to Kobe.
“Dear Kobe, thank you for being the best husband and father you can 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 Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri. Thank you for working so tirelessly to provide for us and for giving us the most amazing life together.
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She continued: “Thank you for waking up at 4 a.m. to train, 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 award show, show and tell or any games our daughters played in if your schedule permitted.”
She then parted with more thank yous to her late husband for the heaps of joy and “heart of gold” and “selfless” sensibility.
To her, the two were akin to Disney icons Mickey and Minnie Mouse or the romantic fictionalized pair in Nicholas’s Sparks novel, The Notebook.
“Thank you for putting your love for our family first. Thank you for bringing so much joy to our lives and joy to the people around the world. 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 easygoing. 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 the Mickey to my Minnie, the Noah to my Allie [from The Notebook].”