Vanessa Bryant Pays An Emotional Tribute To Kobe

Fifteen months after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, the former NBA star received a posthumous honor when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

Kobe was killed along with eight others, including his daughter, when the helicopter they were riding in crashed on January 26, according to TMZ

On May 15, at Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, Kobe officially joined the 2020 Hall of Fame class, which included Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, and San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan, according to CNN, after being elected last year. Kobe's wife Vanessa Bryant took the stage, escorted by his dear friend, Michael Jordan, to accept the honor on behalf of her late husband. 

Vanessa approached the podium wearing a long, purple gown. She waited for the cheers to die down before beginning her speech. "Last February, I called Michael and asked him if he would introduce Kobe tonight, and he graciously accepted. Thank you for being here. Kobe admired you. This means so much to us," Vanessa began (via NBA). Keep scrolling to read more.

Vanessa Bryant said her husband is 'still winning'

Vanessa Bryant spoke so eloquently, and her speech was filled with emotion. In true Vanessa fashion, she was able to convey a strong message that showed that she was filled with gratitude — and she was even able to inject in some humor. "I used to always avoid praising my husband to public, because I felt like he got enough praise from his fans around the world and someone had to bring him back to reality. Right now, I'm sure he's laughing in heaven, because I'm about to praise him in public for his accomplishments on one of the most public stages. I can see him now, arms folded, with a huge grin saying, 'Isn't this some s—,'" she said (via NBA). "He's still winning," she added.

"I wish my husband was here to accept this incredible award. He and Gigi deserved to be here to witness this. Gigi would be so proud to watch her daddy get enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame," Vanessa went on. "I know he was really looking forward to being here. He asked the Hall of Fame to specifically add a sixth ticket for Capri. He was so happy," she said.

Vanessa revealed that her husband "didn't really talk about upcoming awards," but this one in particular was special to him. She then talked about a candid moment that she had with Kobe before he died.

Vanessa Bryant thanks Kobe's parents during her speech

Vanessa Bryant said that she and Kobe Bryant talked about his parents attending the Basketball Hall of Fame event — something that she wanted to see through. "Pam and Joe, thank you for raising Kobe to be exceptional. Thank you to all of Kobe's family. Sharia, you've gone above and beyond. I love you," she said, looking over at his family sitting in the crowd (via NBA). 

"There would never be anyone like Kobe. Kobe was one of a kind. He was special. He was humble, off the court, but bigger than life," the mother of four continued, before thanking her "close friends and family" that have stepped up and helped her out after Kobe's death. Vanessa said that her husband would likely have a "long list of people" to thank, but that he didn't have a speech prepared because he "winged every single speech." Instead, Vanessa just said "thank you" to anyone and everyone that helped Kobe throughout his career and his life. 

"Kobe's personal stats, speak for themselves. Kobe was on a different level. He never took shortcuts when it came to basketball. He gave this game his all," Vanessa said, adding that he played through injuries because he "didn't want to disappoint his fans." She listed his achievements, including his Olympic medals and his Oscar Award, before wrapping up with a personal message to her late husband.

Vanessa Bryant received a standing ovation following her touching speech

Vanessa Bryant finished her speech with a moving letter to the love of her life. "Dear Kobe, thank you for being the best husband and father you could possibly be. Thank you for growing and learning from your own mistakes. Thank you for always trying to be better. Thank you for never giving up on us," she began (via NBA). "Thank you for never telling me no, and always letting me have my way, most of the time. Thank you for being patient and easy-going. Thank you for letting me burst your bubble every chance I got. Thank you for graciously taking all my harsh comebacks. Thank you for dishing them back," she said playfully.

In conclusion, Vanessa congratulated her late husband. "Congratulations, baby, all of your hard work and sacrifice has paid off. He once told me, if you're going to bet on someone, bet on yourself. I'm glad you bet on yourself, you overachiever. You did it. You're in the Hall of Fame now. You're a true champ. You're not just an MVP, you're an all-time great. I'm so proud of you. I love you forever and always, Kobe Bean Bryant," Vanessa said, receiving a much-deserved standing ovation. 

It's hard to imagine there was a dry eye in the arena.