Vanessa Bryant Accepts Kobe Bryant's Hall of Fame Honor: 'I Wish My Husband Was Here'
"I wish my husband were here to accept this incredible award."
With those words, a somber but proud Vanessa Bryant accepted on Kobe Bryant's behalf his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as friends like La La Anthony, Ciara, Russell Wilson and Sabrina Ionescu looked on.
Vanessa, in regal purple, attended the event Saturday in Springfield, Massachusetts, where the grieving widow remembered her late husband alongside one of his closest friends, fellow basketball icon 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 to Jordan.
"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."
Though wishing Kobe and their daughter Gianna — who perished along with her dad and seven others in an early 2020 helicopter crash — Vanessa said, "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."
Though Vanessa said Kobe was not distracted by awards, "He did mention this one a week before he and Gigi passed. My husband and I were sitting on our kitchen island, and he and I had a conversation about my mother[in-law] and father-in-law attending tonight's enshrinement. I invited my mother[in-law] and father-in-law to tonight's enshrinement to thank them one of the most amazing human beings into this world. Pam and Joe, thank you for raising Kobe to be exceptional. Thank you to all of Kobe's family. Sharia, you've gone above and beyond. I love you."
Stressing her husband's unique qualities, she said, "There will never be anyone like Kobe. Kobe was one of a kind. He was special, he was humble off the court but bigger than life. To all of our close friends and family that have been present for my girls and I, thank you. 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. We love you and are forever grateful for you."
She also gave a shout-out to all who supported Kobe, saying, "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."
Vanessa did not forget to mention Kobe's detractors. "I don't have a speech prepared by my husband because he winged every single speech. He was intelligent, eloquent and gifted at many things including public speaking. However, 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 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.
"Kobe had many accomplishments: five-time NBA champion, five-time New York Times bestselling author, 18-time All Star, a league MVP and two-time Finals MVP, two-time Olympic gold medal winner. He's also the first professional athlete to win an Oscar. The list goes on but his most cherished accomplishment was being the very best girl dad. Usually people thank everyone who has helped them get here. But since I don't have Kobe's specific list, I want to thank my husband. He did the work, he broke those records and he inspired people to be great. I want to thank him for, somehow, finding ways to dedicate time to not only being an incredible athlete, a visionary entrepreneur and storyteller, but also being an amazing family man."
In conclusion, she read a letter she had written 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. 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."
"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']. Thank you for loving me enough to last lifetimes, and every lifetime I choose you."
The event, postponed from August 2020, also included the inductions of Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, WNBA player Tamika Catchings, and coaches Eddie Sutton, Barbara Stevens, Rudy Tomjanovich and Kim Mulkey.