Having mimicked his idol’s game, competitive instincts, and mannerisms during his 20-year NBA career, Kobe Bryant would surely have wanted it Michael Jordan as its moderator for his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
It remains inspiring considering that Jordan spoke so eloquently about their relationship at Bryant’s memorial last year. It also stays bittersweet as Bryant won’t be there for his first-choice induction as a Hall of Famer the Saturday after He died almost 16 months ago in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter (Gianna) and seven others.
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, will certainly bring up these issues when speaking on her husband’s behalf. After this give a powerful speech at the Kobe memorialExpect Vanessa Kobe to be just as poignant during his posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame. Still, Bryant’s inability to speak at his own hall of fame ceremony is one of the many unfortunate realities since his tragedy.
Those who knew Bryant well believed that his speech in the Hall of Fame would have been as unique as his appearances on the square. And while he admired Jordan for the way he played basketball, pursued a competitive advantage, and maximized his business profits, Bryant wouldn’t have wanted to be like Mike by speaking to the Hall of Fame. With all the endless comparisons of whether Jordan or Bryant had better NBA careers, Bryant’s Hall of Fame speech would have been more uplifting and elegant than Jordan’s.
“When MJ made his speech, it was like he still had an ax to grind with certain people. I don’t think Kobe would have gone that route, ”former Lakers security guard Brian Shaw told USA TODAY Sports. “I think it would have been more to make your message something that anyone could get better at given the situation today.”
Kobe’s speech versus MJ’s speech
Nearly 12 years ago, Jordan spent most of his 23-minute Hall of Fame speech warming up both real and imaginary trivia with opponents and the Bulls front office. Despite thanking his family, former coaches and teammates, Jordan devoted more time to broadcasting old grievances.
Jordan selected LeRoy Smith, the man picked over him on his high school college basketball team. Jordan questioned Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf about putting a minute limit on him because of a foot injury early in his NBA career. Jordan criticized former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause for saying that organizations play a bigger role than players in winning an NBA title.
Shouted Jordan Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and George Gervin for alleged freezing in NBA All-Star game during its rookie season. Jordan ridiculed former New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy for calling him “Conman” and arguing that he was friends with his opponents so that he could weaken their competitiveness. Jordan punished former Utah Jazz Guard Byron Russell for believing he could defend him in the 1998 NBA Finals.
In Bryant’s case? During the final years of his NBA career and the four years of his life after his retirement, Bryant seemed too peaceful to settle points. He focused more on it Ensuring a successful second act in his life than clinging to the achievements and shortcomings of his first.
“It would have been a very warm conversation,” said Clippers executive and former general manager of Lakers Jerry West said USA TODAY Sports. “He would have been very humble in his speech. He would have spoken about his experiences in his life and the people he respected and admired. “
Make no mistake, Bryant wouldn’t have gone vanilla after sharing his unfiltered opinions, sarcasm, and quick wits throughout his NBA career.
Bryant would have criticized his large-volume shooting and demanding leadership style. He would have relived the clashes with his coaches and certain teammates. He would have pondered his trading requirements in 2007 after being skeptical of the Lakers’ direction. He would have revisited some of the competitions he was with Kevin Garnett and Tim DuncanBoth also belong to the 2020 Hall of Fame class.
And sure, Bryant would have done a dig or two Shaquille O’Neal after the duo put as much energy into role feuds as they had won three NBA championships together. Note that after his fifth NBA title after the 2010 final, Bryant indicated that he would then have more championship rings than O’Neal.
“We won’t be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony. He won’t be able to say, “Haha, I have five, you have four,” O’Neal complained of TNT shortly after Bryant’s death. “We’re not going to be able to say, ‘If we’d stayed together we could have got 10.’ These are the things that you cannot get back. “
Still, Bryant would have looked back on those moments to show how he triumphed over conflict rather than consumed it.
Bryant would have offered some defiance, context, and perhaps revisionist history to defend his behavior. He would have argued that those moments of conflict were due to just wanting to win. And Bryant would have explained how his work ethic, love of the game, and pursuit of self-improvement led to an accomplished NBA career, with five rings, two gold medals at the U.S. Olympic Games, and fourth place on the league’s all-time list ended (33,643 points).
“It would have been a great moment to talk about his journey,” said Gregg Downer, Bryant’s coach Lower Merion High School outside of Philadelphiasaid USA TODAY Sports. “He would have talked about how he loved the Lakers and how he loved the ‘no short cut’ and ‘no excuse’ mentality.”
Bryant would have explained how this mindset shaped him at various pivots.
He would have thought about loving the game as a little kid in Italy. He would have shared what he had learned from his father (Joe) and uncle (Chubby Cox), who both played professionally.
He would have detailed how he led Lower Merion to its first state championship in 53 years. He would have declared his belief in jumping from high school to the NBA.
He would have explained how he learned to win NBA titles with and without O’Neal. He would have relived his career-high 81-point game as well as his Olympic achievements.
He would have extrapolated how he went through countless illnesses and how he came back from three injuries at the end of the season towards the end of his career. He would have warmed up his 60-point performance in his last game.
“He would have looked back and thanked a lot of people – those who probably felt unappreciated many times along the way,” former Lakers head coach Gary Vitti told USA TODAY Sports. “He was so competitive. He was just as happy as his last game. But even when the game was over, he was on to the next thing. Most of his career wasn’t just about telling people that you did a good job. Towards the end he was much, much better at it. “
Hence, Bryant would have expressed his gratitude as often as his shots.
He would have thanked Downer for his motivational tactics. He would have thanked West and late Lakers owner Jerry Buss for believing in his potential. He would have thanked former Lakers coach Phil Jackson for his teaching. He would have thanked O’Neal, Pau Gasol, and a handful of other teammates for helping him win NBA titles in two different eras.
He would have thanked Vitti for helping him with his injuries. He would have thanked Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss and General Manager Rob Pelinka for their loyalty. Of course, he would have thanked Jordan for his mentorship and he would have thanked Vanessa for her support.
Still, Bryant would not have gotten confused in his speech. He became a storyteller effective enough to win an Oscar for his short basketball film (“Dear Basketball”), which ran a children’s book company (Granity) and production of a children’s podcast (“Punies”). He would have relied on his high school teacher (Jeanne Mastriano) and the published writers he’d worked with to keep his speech both focused and concise. Therefore, Bryant would have enough time to discuss matters beyond his NBA career.
“The temptation is for people to speak of him as such a warrior. But I think in his acceptance speech I’m not sure if he would focus on that, ”Charlotte Hornets general manager and former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak told USA TODAY Sports. “I feel like he’s going to focus on what he’s been doing lately.”
After all, John L. Doleva, president of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, told USA TODAY Sports that Vanessa had approved Bryant’s Hall of Fame exhibit to showcase elements of his Lakers’ careers and the “mamba mentality” that he both has on as well as preached from the court.
Therefore, Bryant would have described in detail how current NBA and WNBA stars have trained with him Mamba Sports Academy. He would have loved to coach Gianna and her teammates on her AAU girls’ basketball team. And he would have shared how his storytelling projects will help the next generation of athletes.
“It would really be about making an impact and building the game,” said the former WNBA player Tamika catches said USA TODAY Sports. “I think he wouldn’t just talk about making the game better for the men. But there would have been a boost for the ‘W.’ He talked about how Gigi and her friends play and what possibilities there are to build and expand basketball as a whole. “
In a challenging year with the ongoing pandemic and race battles, Bryant would also have become just another former athlete more willing to tackle social justice issues.
“It would have been very calculated. I think his message would have been helpful in healing the land, ”Shaw said. “He was a person who was uncomfortable. I think it would have been unforgettable. “
After Bryant’s speech, the public would not only have known about his Hall of Fame basketball career. They would have realized that Bryant had already become a storyteller in the Hall of Fame.