Vanessa Bryant gave a moving tribute to her late husband Kobe Bryant earlier this afternoon, as he joined the ranks of elite basketball greats with enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (the more formal name for the NBA Hall of Fame) Saturday at a ceremony held near Hartford, Connecticut.
Earlier today, I covered some of the highlights of his career — in the man’s own words — in my piece, and our Ship’s piece covered a great moment from the beginnings of Kobe’s rise to legendary status in the NBA.
On Friday, Vanessa posted this moving visual depiction of their enduring love on her Instagram page, a photo credited to their daughter Natalia:
Here’s a “tour” through the exhibit at the Hall of Fame honoring Kobe — which Vanessa designed, according to SportsCenter:
The Kobe Bryant exhibit at the Hall of Fame, designed by Vanessa Bryant.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 14, 2021
But the most powerful part of the widow’s role at the induction ceremony was in her acceptance speech, which moved those looking on — including former Laker Magic Johnson — to tears. Here are some excerpts and clips of the speech in several videos below.
“Right now, I’m sure he’s laughing in heaven, because I’m about to praise him in public,” Vanessa Bryant said.
And she did, her purple dress matching the traditional Los Angeles Lakers color, capping the night by giving the speech that her husband was not here to deliver.
“There will never be anyone like Kobe,” Vanessa Bryant said. “Kobe was one of a kind. He was special. He was humble — off the court — but bigger than life.”
The mother and wife mourned her lost loved ones near the start of the speech:
Vanessa Bryant spoke about how excited Kobe was for the Hall of Fame ceremony. “He and Gigi deserve to be here to witness this.”
Vanessa Bryant spoke about how excited Kobe was for the Hall of Fame ceremony.
"He and Gigi deserve to be here to witness this." pic.twitter.com/2tJegCIHWp
— ESPN (@espn) May 16, 2021
And admitted that she didn’t know how to thank everyone who had helped Kobe become who he was — without “having him here.”
“This is one of the 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.
But in the last three words of her tribute — her husband’s name — she choked back tears:
Vanessa Bryant’s message for Kobe at the end of her Hall of Fame speech 💜💛 “I love you forever and always Kobe Bean Bryant.”
Vanessa Bryant's message for Kobe at the end of her Hall of Fame speech 💜💛
"I love you forever and always Kobe Bean Bryant." pic.twitter.com/5pSkrNxMkX
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 16, 2021
Kobe wasn’t the only member of the family to encourage young athletes, as her boosting of WNBA standout, Sabrina Ionescu, shows. RedState’s Jerry Wilson wrote about why Americans would rally around the league, if Ionescu were properly promoted to the public, in a piece earlier Saturday.
Vanessa Bryant had a very Kobe-like message for Sabrina Ionescu before her season opener and eventual game winner 🤣 pic.twitter.com/5QCQp4ggM5
— Lakers Outsiders (@LakersOutsiders) May 15, 2021
In some way, Sabrina might remind Vanessa of her own 14-year-old daughter Gianna, who also had a passion for the sport her husband loved so much and perished with him and others in that horrific helicopter accident last January. Join me in praying for the Bryant family, as they celebrate this milestone without the father and husband who should have been standing at the podium in Connecticut instead.
May 1st would've been Gianna Bryant’s 15th birthday. Her family honored her memory with a clothing line and fundraiser. Mambacita Sports Foundation is a nonprofit “dedicated to creating positive impact for underserved athletes and young women in sports.”https://t.co/1ixceP9QJz
— BNC (@BNCNews) May 8, 2021
R.I.P. “Black Mamba” and “Mambacita.”