Along with Michael Jordan, who officially inducted Kobe Bryant into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday May 15, Kobe’s widow Vanessa Bryant spoke about his legacy as a player and as a father of four, including Gianna “Gigi” Bryant. “To all those who helped him get here, I thank you on his behalf,” Vanessa began, noting that “Gigi would be so proud” to watch him get inducted.
“He was intelligent, eloquent and gifted at many things … I know he would thank everyone who helped get him here, including those who doubted him.” Vanessa said he was “bigger than life” and “never took shortcuts when it came to basketball.” She also spoke about why he played through injuries, whether it was getting IV’s administered at half time when he had food poisoning, or playing with a broken finger.
“I can see him now with arms folded, a huge grin saying isn’t this some sh*t.”
– Vanessa Bryant. 😂🙏
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) May 15, 2021
“One of the reasons he played through injury was because he remembered sitting in the nosebleeds to watch his favorite player play,” Vanessa said, as she motioned to Michael Jordan. “He could recall the car ride and being lucky enough to have a seat. He didn’t want to disappoint his fans, especially those sitting in the 300th row who saved up to see him play.” Vanessa explained that when she asked him why he rarely called out of a game, he replied, “‘What about the fans that saved up to watch me play just once?’ If he could help it, he would play every minute of every game. He loved you all so much.”
Kobe’s daughter Natalia Bryant also honored her late father at the 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony by wearing his jacket and his ring. The 18-year-old was pictured during the Tip-Off Celebration and Awards Gala wearing the burnt orange jacket, as her Vanessa stood beside her.
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) May 15, 2021
This past January marked the one-year anniversary of the fatal helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe, Gigi, and seven others. On that emotional day, Vanessa paid tribute in a heartfelt message online. “I miss my baby girl and Kob-Kob so much,” wrote Vanessa. “I will never understand why [or] how this tragedy could have happened to such beautiful, kind, and amazing human beings. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you.” April also saw Vanessa celebrate what would have been her and Kobe’s 20th wedding anniversary. In May, Vanessa wrote how much she wished “you were still here with us” on what would have been Gigi’s 15th birthday. “There are no words to express how much I miss you. I love you, Mamacita.”
“Gigi was very competitive like her daddy,” Vanessa said while delivering a eulogy at Kobe and Gianna’s public memorial in February 2020, “but she had a sweet grace about her. Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face, like mine. Kobe always said she was me. She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm, and she was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine. Kobe and Gianna naturally gravitated towards each other. She had Kobe’s ability to listen to a song and have all the lyrics memorized after listening to the song a couple of times; it was their secret talent.”
“Kobe and I have been together since I was 17-and-a-half years old,” she later said in the service. “I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant and his protector. He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. … We had hoped to grow old together like the movie. We really had an amazing love story. We loved each other with our whole beings, two perfectly imperfect people raising a beautiful family and our sweet and amazing girls.”
“We love and miss you, Boo-Boo and Gigi,” she concluded. “May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you forever and always, Mommy.”