On Feb. 8, 1998, a 19-year-old Kobe Bryant and a 21-year-old Kevin Garnnett got the first starts in the NBA All-Star game. Garnett had been in one All-Star game the year before, but not as a starter. So, while Bryant and Garnett didn’t enter the league together, their rise to greatness occurred at the same time, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering how competitive they both were.
Bryant and Garnett were supposed to share another special moment this year: the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony in Springfield. Bryant and Garnett were among the three NBA players named to the 2020 Hall of Fame class on Saturday, but Bryant won’t be there to give his long-awaited Hall of Fame speech because he — along with with eight other people, including his daughter Gianna — was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas in January. Bryant would have been 42 by the time the ceremony rolled around.
The day was already set to be emotional, but with Bryant’s tragic death still fresh, Kevin Garnett told Shams Charania of The Athletic, Garnett said that he expects the ceremony to be extra emotional.
The Athletic. “He had such a pivotal part in the game itself, not just influence, but creation. I’d like to think that Kob’ created inadvertently an originality about himself. Timmy is the same thing. They both are unprecedented, not only athletes, but people. I feel more than honored to go in with these two, but Kobe not being there is going to be super emotional for everybody. The fact that the three of us actually pushed the other two into whether it was awards, All-Stars, battles, rings — we all three pushed the lines.”
Bryant and Garnett were rivals for most of their careers, and their rivalry reached a tipping point when they faced off in the 2010 NBA Finals — two years after Garnett’s Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals. Garnett won the Finals MVP that series. However, the respect they had for each other was prevalent in everything they did.
Hopefully, when the day comes, we’ll be able to celebrate the life and careers of everyone getting inducted, even if we didn’t always particularly care for them while they were playing.
And, as always, let the people you love know that you love them whenever you get the chance. They might not be Hall of Famers, but you can make them feel like they are.