Kobe Bryant was officially named as an entrant to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday morning, unfortunately as a posthumous induction after he, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash earlier this year.
Because Kobe isn’t here to speak about the honor, his wife, Vanessa Bryant (joined by her daughter Natalia) went on ESPN to talk about Bryant’s selection as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and said that as great as it was, they just wished Kobe was here to celebrate it with them:
“It’s an incredible accomplishment and honor, and we’re extremely proud of him. Obviously we wish that he was here with us to celebrate, but it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career, and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to be here. We’re incredibly proud of him.”
They definitely should be proud, and as she was during an incredible the incredible feat of strength that was her speech at Kobe and Gianna’s celebration of life, Vanessa spoke for the entire city and Lakers fanbase here, as surely she is far from alone in wishing that Kobe was still with us to bask in the glory of the top achievement any basketball player can earn: enshrinement in the hall that remembers the best to ever do it.
And Kobe is unmistakably in the one percent of such inductees. A five-time champion, two-time Finals MVP, one-time regular season MVP and 15-time All-NBA honoree and 18-time All-Star in his 20 years with the Lakers, Kobe has a strong case as not just the greatest Laker ever, but one of the best players of all time. Him being gone at just 41 years old remains a tragedy, but thankfully this enshrinement just gives us one more excuse to celebrate everything he was.
As I wrote back when he was listed as one of the nominees for this honor, among so many other reasons it sucks that Bryant isn’t here anymore, it’s really disappointing that we’ll never get to hear what he was planning to say for this moment. His speech surely would have been alternately hilarious, poignant and illuminating — or maybe he just would have went up there and trash talked everyone who ever slighted him. Either way, it would have been must see television, and it sucks that we’ll never get to see it.
Still, as tough as it is that Bryant isn’t here to bask in this moment that he scratched and clawed every ounce of potential out of his body to get to, at least we all get to celebrate it together. As LeBron James said back on the night of the Lakers’ first game since Bryant’s passing, “in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba Out.’ But in the words of us, ‘not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.”
Rest in peace, Kobe. It’s not like this wasn’t set in stone before, but now there will be one more plaque to make sure basketball never forgets you.