Vanessa Bryant accepted her late husband Kobe Bryant’s prestigious honor of being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The 39-year-old philanthropist gave an incredibly touching speech about her love’s career and legacy on Saturday, May 15 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. She enlisted fellow basketball titan Michael Jordan to help introduce Kobe, saying she called him the night before. “Thank you for being here, Michael,” she prefaced in her lengthy speech. “Kobe admired you, this means so much to us.”
Scroll to watch her full speech.
“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,” Vanessa went on to say. “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.”
“I wish my husband was here to accept this incredible award. He and Gigi deserve to be here to witness this,” the mom-of-four said, mentioning their daughter Gianna who tragically passed with Kobe in the helicopter accident. “Gigi would be so proud to watch her daddy get enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. 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.”
Vanessa continued: “He didn‘t really talk about upcoming awards but 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 for bringing 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.” On her sister-in-law, she said: “Sharia, you’ve gone above and beyond. I love you.”
Touching on her beloved husband’s character she added: “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.”
“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.”
“I don’t have a speech prepared by my husband because he winged every single speech,” she admitted. “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.”
“All of the athletes that share a Hall of Fame award share the fact that they have to sacrifice a part of their lives to dedicate more time to their craft. It takes a lot of self-drive, dedication and discipline. No one can take away from their own success,” she said, then adding: “Kobe‘s personal stats speak for themselves. 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.” Vanessa cited specific examples of this.
One of the most emotional moments was later on in her tribute when she read a letter she wrote 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,” Vanessa said. “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. Thank you for loving me enough to last lifetimes, and every lifetime I choose you.”
The Bryant family also toured Kobe’s new standalone exhibit within the museum walls called “Kobe: A Basketball Life.” Vanessa had a hand in designing the hallowed space, sharing some highlights to social media. Hall of fame inductees rarely get this additional tribute.