As she struggled through the pain, Vanessa Bryant continued to show strength.
Almost 16 months have passed since her husband, former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, and 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash. During that period, Vanessa Bryant made two public speeches to commemorate her husband as she came through her loss. She spoke for about 12 minutes and 30 seconds on behalf of Kobe at his induction into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, almost 15 months after doing the same on his memorial.
“I wish my husband were here to receive this incredible award,” she said. “He and Gigi deserve to be here to see this happen. Gigi would be so proud to see her father inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.”
Vanessa had announced that Kobe was speaking about his anticipated Hall of Famer nomination for the first round of voting, almost a week before he was among the nine people who died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. With two Olympic gold medals and a fourth place on the league’s all-time list, partly because of his preparation, Kobe hadn’t outlined what he was going to say when he expected to be the center of attention during his induction into the Hall of Fame.
“If my husband were here tonight, he would have a long list of people who inspired and inducted him into the Hall of Fame – family, friends, mentors, the Lakers, teammates, muses and opponents,” Vanessa said . “This is one of the many difficult things about not having him here. At the risk of leaving someone out, I can only thank everyone who helped him get here. You know who you are and me thank you for his name. “
Even if Vanessa hesitated to thank individual people, she did I hardly held back where to say thank you.
“I did not prepare a speech for my husband because he winged every single speech,” said Vanessa. “He was intelligent, eloquent, and gifted in many things, including public speaking. However, I know he would thank everyone who helped him get here, including the people who doubted him and the people who who worked against him and told him he couldn’t. ” He would thank everyone for motivating him to be here. After all, he proved you were wrong. “
However, Vanessa singled out a few people.
Vanessa thanked Kobe’s parents Joe and Pam and sister Sharia. That is to be expected given the family ties. But Kobe and Vanessa have had different tensions with them over the years. Kobe’s parents initially did not consent to their son’s marriage. Eight years ago, Kobe sued his parents after they tried to auction some of his high school memorabilia. But they all visited Kobe’s memorial last year, and Vanessa shared that a week before his death, Kobe was talking about inviting his parents to his expected induction into the Hall of Fame.
“Pam and Joe, thank you for making Kobe exceptional,” Vanessa said. “Thanks to all of the Kobe family, Sharia. You have gone way beyond that. I love you.”
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Shortly after starting her speech, Vanessa also thanked former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan for being Kobe’s host. Vanessa asked Jordan to take on this role last year after speaking at Kobe’s memorial as well. Then Jordan spoke about his relationship with Bryant as a competitor, mentor, and friend.
“Thanks for being here, Michael,” said Vanessa. “Kobe admired you. It means so much to us.”
This time, Vanessa shared with Jordan how he influenced Kobe, who had often praised him for his skills, competitiveness and business acumen.
“One of the reasons my husband played with injuries and pain was because he remembered being a little kid, having a nosebleed with his father and watching his favorite player play,” Vanessa said as she looked up Jordan turned. “I remember asking him why he couldn’t just miss a game because he was injured. He said, ‘What about the fans who saved up to see me play just once?’ He never forgot his fans. If he could help he would be playing every game every minute. He loved you all so much. “
So did Vanessa, who spent most of her speech praising her husband for battling injuries and becoming a devoted family man when it came to his performance on the pitch.
Vanessa raved about the myriad ankle, knee and finger injuries Kobe went through, including a free throw after tearing his left Achilles tendon in the 2012/13 season. Kobe left the field alone after this game. He then played six games in 2013/14 before injuring his left knee at the end of the season and 35 games in 2015/16 before injuring his right knee at the right end of the season. Even so, Kobe beat them well enough to survive 20 NBA seasons and score 60 points in his final game.
“I’ll never forget the look he gave me when he walked off the pitch in this game,” Vanessa recalled, remembering Kobe hurting his Achilles. “I knew it was bad. The crowd cheered and I assured Natalia and Gianna that Dad would be just as fine as any other injury. But when he walked into the tunnel, there was no wink or kiss that fell into me the cross came. I could see the worried look on his face. That injury was big, but the comeback from that injury was bigger. “
Even so, Vanessa argued that Kobe’s “most cherished achievement was being the best girl father” for her four daughters Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri. She also thanked Kobe for “being the best husband and father anyone could be.”
Vanessa forgave Kobe for unspecified defects. But at the beginning of their marriage, the two Kobe had publicly admitted to having admitted adultery. They faced rape allegations that were eventually dropped, and Vanessa filed for divorce before withdrawing it.
“Thank you for growing and learning from your own mistakes,” said Vanessa. “Thank you for always trying to get better. Thank you for never giving up on us. Thank you for all your hard work. Thank you for our family.”
Vanessa thanked Kobe for showing the same dedication he showed on the basketball court as he did in his family life. Some examples? Vanessa noted that between early morning workouts and midday workouts, Kobe often dropped out and picked up his daughters at school. She praised him for being punctual at birthday parties, dance evenings, and award ceremonies. Vanessa also thanked Natalia and Gianna, “for sacrificing so much time for Papa so that he can concentrate on being the best at everything he has set out to do.”
“Thank you for putting your love for our family first,” said Vanessa. “Thank you for bringing so much joy into our lives and joy to people around the world. Thank you for inspiring us to be better than the day before. Thank you for teaching me and all of us to put another’s joy before our own. ” Thank you for being so selfless and having a heart full of gold. “
Vanessa spoke these words with gratitude and grace. But she predicted beforehand that it wouldn’t feel that easy. Not just because she’s still dealing with the pain. Admittedly, she has not gotten used to showering her husband with such compliments.
But since Kobe’s death, Vanessa has fought hard for him. She has renegotiated his deals. She has filed an unlawful death lawsuit and is suing the LAPD over officers distributing photos from the crash site. And she was overseeing th
“I’ve always avoided praising my husband in public because I felt like he got enough praise from fans around the world and someone had to bring him back to reality,” said Vanessa. “Right now I’m sure he’s laughing in heaven because I’ll be praising him in public for his performance on one of the most public stages. I can see him now, arms crossed with a big grin. ‘Isn’t that some ( expletive)? ‘He’s still winning. “
So Vanessa was still doing some playful digs.
“Thanks for never taking yourself too seriously. Thanks for your sense of humor,” said Vanessa. “Thank you for your joke. Thank you for never telling me no and for letting me go my way most of the time. Thank you for being patient and calm. Thank you for popping your bladder at every opportunity. Thank you me graciously accept all my tough comebacks. Thank you for sending them back. Thank you for being Mickey to my Minnie and Noah to my Allie. Thank you for loving me enough to last a lifetime. “
Just like her husband, Vanessa then delivered an unforgettable finish.
“Daddy was amazing. He loves you girl so much,” Vanessa said. “Congratulations, baby. All of your hard work and sacrifice has paid off. You once told me that if you want to bet on someone, it is yourself. I’m glad you bet on yourself, you high-flyer. You have done it.” You are now in the Hall of Fame. You are a true champion. You’re not just an MVP. You’re an all-time great. I’m so proud of you. I love you forever and ever, Kobe Bean Bryant. “
When Vanessa stopped speaking, the crowd reacted as they often do at Lakers games. They applauded. Then they sang Kobe’s name. After wondering how Kobe battled pain in competition on the pitch, they praised Vanessa for battling pain while speaking on stage.