Grief comes in waves, and sometimes it hits you when you aren’t expecting it. So while it still just doesn’t feel real that Kobe Bryant is not going to walk out on stage on Saturday and accept his spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday with what surely would have been an all-time speech, the late Lakers legend is not going to be there. Instead, others will have to speak for him.
That is profoundly tragic for reasons that go far beyond basketball. There is no getting around it. But during what is sure to be a bittersweet few days of celebration still tinged by sadness, we here at Silver Screen and Roll are going to try and round up how everyone around the NBA is remembering the man known as the Black Mamba as he joins basketball’s timeless figures in Springfield.
We will be updating this story throughout the weekend, so check back for the latest anecdotes and memories as the basketball world continues to both collectively grieve and celebrate the one and only Kobe Bean Bryant.
Saturday, May 15
Here is Vanessa Bryant’s full, indescribably strong acceptance speech on Kobe’s behalf in full:
And here is the video they played to introduce him:
A look back at Kobe Bryant's Hall of Fame career— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 15, 2021
(via @NBA) pic.twitter.com/O3GxGypETP
James was asked about Bryant’s induction on Saturday after the Lakers beat the Pacers.
"It was a beautiful thing to see Vanessa put the jacket on his daughter, on his eldest, yesterday. ... It's a celebration for another Laker great."— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 15, 2021
—LeBron on Kobe Bryant and the Hall of Fame ceremony tonight pic.twitter.com/xt8osqvOY1
The greatest Lakers guard other than Bryant talked to Brad Turner of the L.A. Times about what he'd always remember about Kobe. Not surprisingly, it was a story about confidence and work ethic:
“Even after the first year when he took the shot and it was an airball against Utah, and what he said afterwards, like, ‘Hey, wait until next time. I’m going to knock it down.’ Like, he just had that confidence in his ability that I hadn’t seen for a guy that was that young,” Johnson said “And sure enough, he proved it. He proved himself to be right and everybody else to be wrong, because everybody was doubting him at that time. ‘Who is this young guy saying that he would shoot it again?’ ”
Johnson, a Lakers and NBA icon who is a Hall of Famer himself, laughed at that thought before he continued to praise Bryant.
“Then we saw him grow in that second year. You just saw it because he was putting in the work, so it was just early on I thought he could be in the Hall of Fame. … He had an old-school mindset and a new-school game. He had a combination, and you don’t see that too much. No matter what the circumstances, hard, tough, most people would have folded in a lot of situations. Not Kobe.”
Friday, May 14
Kobe and Vanessa Bryant’s eldest daughter accepted her late father’s Hall of Fame jacket to chants of “Ko-be” at the induction dinner on Friday night.
Vanessa and Natalia receive Kobe’s Hall of Fame jacket and ring— Kobe Highlights & Motivation (@kobehighlight) May 15, 2021
With chants of “KOBE” from the crowd pic.twitter.com/IHNr0HdVDs
The peerless Jackie MacMullan of ESPN dropped a must-read story on the final text exchange between Jordan and his “little brother” Kobe, including Jordan revealing why he wasn’t afraid to cry at Bryant’s celebration of life.
Time has passed, but the grief lingers, simmering on the surface. Jordan acknowledges that he had some concerns about how he would maintain his composure during the induction ceremony.
“I was thinking, at first, I might be a little somewhat nervous about it, but then I realized I’m not going to be nervous about showing emotions for someone I absolutely loved,” Jordan says. “That’s the humanistic side of me — people tend to forget I do have one.”
Jordan will join Vanessa Bryant — who also helped design an exhibit for her late husband at the hall — onstage to induct Kobe on Saturday.
At 600 square feet, the Bryant exhibit “is about 600 square feet more than any other Hall of Famer gets.” @AndrewGreif on the Vanessa Bryant-co-designed Kobe HoF space @latimessports https://t.co/x0rdb6XTDs— Chris Stone (@LAT_ChrisStone) May 14, 2021
The Lakers’ controlling governor knew Bryant for decades, and told Dan Woike of the L.A. Times that she thinks Kobe’s speech would have been an all-timer:
“Knowing him, he probably had been thinking about it already, you know, to make it really spectacular and special and meaningful. He did things with purpose, with creativity,” she said. “Even when he made the decision to announce his retirement. It was top secret and … he picked that date because he wanted every person who was at that game to receive a letter and no more could be printed than the ones there so that everybody had one. And then that was it. You know, he wanted them to have something that they could keep the collectible.
“He thought about everything he did and everything he said, and I’m sure it would have been very meaningful.”
She told Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register that like Jordan, she still remembers back to the last message Kobe left her:
Buss tries to keep the pieces of Bryant she has left: She’s saved the last voicemail he left her, from December 2019 to express sympathy when her mother died. Hearing his voice reminds her how warm he could be, but also what the world lost.
“It’s like the grieving process all over again,” Buss said. “I fully expect in my life that this will happen again and again. With the anniversaries of so many of his great accomplishments, that makes it tough. But at least we have the ability to celebrate him, to be reminded of those moments. That brings us closer, even though it’s an impossible void to fill.”
Pelinka, the current Lakers general manager and Bryant’s former agent and best friend, wanted to reminisce to Woike — among other things — about Bryant’s legendary free throws on a torn Achilles, and why he made sure to shoot them:
“When most people suffer that injury they are carried off the floor by teammates, or in a wheelchair. The pain is overwhelming,” Pelinka wrote. “What did Kobe do? He walked to the line and sank two [go-ahead] free throws. When I asked him after the game how he did that, he said, ‘I know that game was a must win for us to make the playoffs, and my teammates needed me to seal that win. I would never let my teammates down, so I had to block out the pain, and just focus on the task at hand.
“‘What came to mind was, s—, Dirk [Nowitzki] can make shots on one leg with his patented fall-away jumper, so I can sure as hell make two free throws on one leg!’”
Woike also had an excellent story about Trae Young, Jrue Holiday and Klay Thompson remembering Bryant as the MJ of their era. The Times’ whole Kobe section has been wonderful this week.
At the Lakers’ practice on Friday, Davis was asked what Bryant’s trademark “Mamba Mentality” meant to him as he went into the Hall of Fame.
This was his answer:
“I carry that mentality all throughout my life now. He tried to instill that in me before his passing... It’s kind of like, when something happens you’re like ‘okay, I see now, I get it.’ I get it, from being on the floor, off the floor, it’s a way of life, a way of thinking in your approach to everything you do in the world. And I think the entire world has kind of adapted that a lot more since his passing and it’s a great mindset to have.”
You can watch Davis’ full remarks on Kobe and more below:
Here's the clip AD is referring to: a 36-year old Kobe, with a dislocated right shoulder, hitting a lefty turnaround fadeaway on Quincy Pondexter pic.twitter.com/55CfLCX0jB— michael corvo (@_michaelcorvo_) May 14, 2021
The longtime Lakers trainer and Bryant confidante shared some truly Kobe stories that only a trainer would have:
ICYMI, read about how Kobe tried to pull down his own Achilles, refused a wheelchair as a shot at Paul Pierce and said he could gouge out his own eye in under a minute to save his own life. Incredible interview with the incredible Gary Vitti. https://t.co/hvTLJqjmBS— Melissa Rohlin (@melissarohlin) May 14, 2021
Duncan, a Bryant contemporary who will be inducted alongside him, shared his memories of Bryant at his pre-induction press conference:
“Always demanding more of his team and teammates than probably was possible. But he wanted to win that much, he wanted it that much. It was an honor to share the court with him” (2/2) pic.twitter.com/vXWaXBoe9X— Lakers Outsiders (@LakersOutsiders) May 14, 2021
Garnett, who had two memorable battles with Bryant in the Finals and was like another side of the same coin in terms of competitive fire, also remembered his fellow inductee:
“I used to always crack on him and tell him he was too small to play, he’d always used to crack on me, tell me I’m too small to guard him”— Lakers Outsiders (@LakersOutsiders) May 14, 2021
“I miss him every day” pic.twitter.com/PIKjKumFZ8
Madsen, a longtime teammate and later coach of Bryant’s, had a great blog post remembering his friend:
Tomorrow Kobe will be inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame. Thinking about this achievement for Kobe caused me to reflect on several cherished memories I had with him.— Mark Madsen (@madsen_mark) May 14, 2021
Kobe, congrats on the hall of fame!! Well deserved.https://t.co/naRtYvRerJ
The former Lakers coach who worked with Bryant for less than a season told Marc Stein of the New York Times that if Bryant had his way, Tomjanovich would have stayed with the Lakers longer:
What Tomjanovich shared with Jackson, if not an offensive philosophy, was a gift for reading superstars and ultimately connecting with them. His time with Bryant was short during the 2004-5 season, when Tomjanovich quickly deduced that the stress of coaching had become damaging to his health, but at least one Laker urged him not to walk away.
“Kobe tried to talk me out of it,” Tomjanovich said in a telephone interview, reflecting on his resignation, as well as how he meshed with Bryant, after just 43 games.
Finally, this post would not be complete without some highlights of why Bryant is in the Hall of Fame in the first place. Enjoy:
.@LakerFilmRoom Classic: For Kobe’s 40th bday, let’s look back at his streak of nine straight 40-point games. https://t.co/Uv7j36miOE pic.twitter.com/qzmT4ikdaa— Silver Screen and Roll (@LakersSBN) August 23, 2018
For a little LFR Classic, @LakerFilmRoom took a look back at the Lakers’ game seven comeback against the Blazers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, and why it was choke job from Portland rather than being rigged.https://t.co/VN2JjMS8cs pic.twitter.com/qO6Eh0BqV8— Silver Screen and Roll (@LakersSBN) August 14, 2018
Let us know about your favorite memories, or just drop in to chat about the weekend in the comments below.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.