To no one’s surprise, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will induct Kobe Bryant posthumously later this year. Bryant will join Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and six others as part of the 2020 class, but the ceremony will obviously be bittersweet.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, was understandably emotional when speaking to ESPN’s Rece Davis on Saturday after the Hall of Fame revealed Bryant was part of the star-studded class.
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“It’s an incredible accomplishment and honor, and we’re extremely proud of him,” Vanessa said alongside her daughter Natalia. “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, and there’s some solace in knowing that he was probably going to be a part of the 2020 Hall of Fame class.”
The Lakers superstar spent his entire career in Los Angeles, winning five NBA championships and earning 18 All-Star selections.
“No amount of words can fully describe what Kobe Bryant meant to the Los Angeles Lakers,” Lakers governor Jeanie Buss said in a team statement. “Kobe was not only a proven winner and a champion, he gave everything he had to the game of basketball. His fierce competitiveness, work ethic and drive were unmatched.
“Those qualities helped Kobe lead us to five titles — and have now brought him to the Hall of Fame, where he will be enshrined with the greatest to have ever played the game. No one deserves it more.”
Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, who was Bryant’s agent for years before shifting to a front office role, said the induction is an honor that Bryant would “deeply appreciate.”
“The highest of congratulations to you, dear friend,” Pelinka said. “This one is so well deserved — for all the hard work, sweat and toil. Now, a part of you will live in the Hall with the rest of the all-time greats, where your legend and spirit will continue to grow forever.”