When Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, he was not yet enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. However, Chairman Jerry Colangelo released a statement saying that he would be honored with the 2020 class. The late NBA icon was officially elected to the Hall of Fame on April 4, and his wife Vanessa reacted by saying that it was the "peak of his NBA career."
Speaking with ESPN's Rece Davis via Facetime, Vanessa said that "It's an incredible accomplishment and honor, and we're extremely proud of him. Every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here." Bryant was in his first year of eligibility following his retirement on April 13, 2016, but was expected to be a first-ballot player. He joins a list that also includes Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett among others.
What a journey it's been. Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Kobe. pic.twitter.com/4tLIttRyaW— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 4, 2020
"Obviously we wish that he was here with us to celebrate," Vanessa said. "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."
Bryant played for 20 years in the NBA, all of which were spent with the Lakers. He was a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and 18-time All-Star. Bryant was also named league MVP for his efforts during the 2007–08 season and helped lead Team USA to gold medals during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
"No amount of words can fully describe what Kobe Bryant meant to the Los Angeles Lakers," Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said in a 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."
The person who will enshrine Bryant in the Hall of Fame has not been revealed, but he listed two possible choices during a 2017 interview with Complex. Bryant said that either former Lakers coach Phil Jackson or Michael Jordan would be his choice considering that they were the "two greatest mentors" in his career as an athlete and as a person.
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