VANESSA Bryant on Saturday night tearfully accepted as her late husband Kobe was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The widow of the NBA great was visibly emotional during her tribute, in which she thanked Kobe and said she “wishes he was here.”
The legendary basketball star 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.
"I wish my husband was here to accept this incredible award,” Vanessa told the crowd.
"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.”
Toward the end of her tribute to her late husband, Vanessa said of Kobe: “You did it. You’re in the hall of fame now.
“You’re not just an MVP – you’re an all-time great. I’m so proud of you. Love you forever and always.”
Alongside 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.
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**t?’ 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.
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.
The Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday was pushed back from its original August 2020 date due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven other passengers died in a helicopter crash on their way to a basketball practice back on Jan. 26, 2020.
During her tribute, 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 gotten an extra ticket for his youngest child.
"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.
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."
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.
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"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.
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