Vanessa Bryant accepts Kobe Bryant Hall of Fame induction: ‘You’re an all-time great’

"You once told me, ‘If you’re going to bet on someone, bet on yourself.’ I’m glad you bet on yourself, you overachiever," Venessa Bryant says about the late Kobe Bryant

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Induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is a time for honorees to celebrate and reflect on their careers, however, Saturday’s ceremony was overwhelmingly bittersweet.

The 2020 induction class stands out not only for its volume of high profile players, but for the absence of one: Kobe Bryant.

With the death of the NBA superstar in January 2020, fans were unable to hear his acceptance speech. Instead, his widow, Vanessa Bryant, courageously stood in his place as he was enshrined with other basketball legends. Vanessa was accompanied by Kobe’s presenter, friend and mentor, Michael Jordan. All inductees get to choose current Hall of Famers to present them into induction during their speech. Jordan was inducted in 2009.

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 on May 15, 2021 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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Vanessa delivered a grateful, stoic speech on behalf of her husband, who along with their daughter, Giana, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. As previously reported by theGrio, Vanessa was informed that Kobe was inducted for the class of 2020 in April 2020. She began last night’s speech by acknowledging Jordan.

“Last February, I called Michael and asked him if he would introduce Kobe tonight, and he graciously accepted. Thank you for being here, Michael,” she told Jordan as he stood by her side. “Kobe admired you. This means so much to us.”

She acknowledged everyone in her family’s circle who has been supported for her and Kobe’s three daughters, Natalia, Bianca and Capri.

“To all of our close friends and family who have been present for my girls and I, thank you,” Vanessa said. “That list is long, and it takes a village. But know that your kindness and love does not go unappreciated. I know that Kobe is thankful that you’re all coming through for his girls.”

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Although Vanessa thanked the group of people in Kobe’s life who helped him reach the Hall of Fame, she also acknowledged another group that pushed him: his haters. While she couldn’t name everyone by name, she said, “I do know that he would thank everyone who 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.”

Vanessa ended her 12-minute speech by expressing her love for her husband and validating his self-determination.

“You once told me, ‘If you’re going to bet on someone, bet on yourself.’ I’m glad you bet on yourself, you overachiever,” she said wryly. ““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 forever and always, Kobe Bean Bryant.”

Bryant played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Laker, where he won five championships, a 2008 league MVP, and 18 All-Star selections. Also enshrined in the 2020 class were legendary NBA power forwards Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, who, like Bryant, also entered on the first year of eligibility, and former WNBA defensive great and four-time Olympic gold medal winner, Tamika Catchings.

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