Kobe Bryant will be posthumously inducted to basketball’s Hall of Fame this year. According to HOF chairman Jerry Colangelo, Bryant will be enshrined to the Hall of Fame without a vote.
This year’s Hall of Fame ceremony is expected to honor Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett among others. Bryant, Duncan, and Garnett were among the finalists after having their names for the first time in the ballot last December. A former NBA player becomes eligible to be enshrined to the Hall of Fame four years after retirement.
One of the highlights of the induction is the speeches by the inductees. Everyone was looking forward to hearing what the Mamba had to say but unfortunately, we will never hear Kobe speak again. In his absence, the HOF will determine someone who will speak on his behalf. Right now, we don’t know who that person will be. But there are only a few who truly knew Kobe Bryant.
Here are the best candidates to speak for Kobe Bryant during his Hall of Fame induction:
When Shaquille O’Neal left Los Angeles, many though that Kobe would never win another NBA title. He was known as a selfish scorer who always took upon himself to carry his team. But everything changed when Pau Gasol came to the Los Angeles Lakers. He rekindled Kobe’s championship fire and they won back to back NBA titles.
Gasol wasn’t as dominant as Shaquille O’Neal was. But he was as great a force than O’Neal was inside the basketball court. The Spaniard clicked with Bryant right from day one and together, they formed one of the best one-two tandems in Lakers’ history.
Unlike Shaq, Gasol never had a big ego that collided with Bryant. Pau and Kobe treated each other like brothers. Because Bryant spoke six languages, he and Gasol often huddled in Spanish so that opponents didn’t know what they were talking about. Kobe spent the last of his winning years playing with Gasol and it would be fitting for Pau to talk about the mature Kobe Bryant who had evolved as the Black Mamba.
When Phil Jackson came to the Los Angeles Lakers, he transformed the team from a potential championship team to a five-time champion during the Kobe Bryant era. Jackson was head coach of the Lakers from 1999-2011, missing one season in between due to a brief resignation.
Jackson would be a good candidate to speak at Bryant’s induction because he and Bryant were the best player-coach tandem from 1999-2011. During that period, they won a total of five NBA championships and seven NBA Finals appearances. Three of these titles were won with Shaquille O’Neal from 2000-2002 and the other two in 2009 and 2010 were won with Pau Gasol as Bryant’s chief aide.
In 2017, in an interview with Liz Levy, Bryant himself said:
“In terms of who might present,” said Bryant, “for me it’s two people: Michael Jordan or Phil Jackson. They’ve been the greatest mentors, not only in my career as an athlete, but also as a person. And what I might say is just a lot of thank yous. ‘Cause I’ve had a lotta help along the way. A lotta lotta help.”
As you can read, Bryant described both as his greatest mentors, not just inside the basketball court, but also in life.
When you look at all the candidates to speak for Kobe Bryant, none of them would be more qualified to talk about the entire Kobe Bryant story than his father, Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant.
It was Joe, a former NBA player, who inspired his son to take up basketball. It is Joe who knows Kobe more than anyone, even Vanessa.
Pau Gasol, Shaw, Phil Jackson, and MJ can talk about how special their relationship with Kobe was and how they and Kobe inspired each other to become better. But remember these people already knew Kobe when he was in the NBA. They didn’t know when Kobe first picked up the basketball, how he learned to speak six different languages, and how Kobe became so passionate about his craft.
Joe and Pam Bryant raised three kids including Kobe. They journeyed from America to Europe to continue Joe’s basketball career. Of course, we know the story but I’m sure there’s so much more that Joe can share if he is given this opportunity. Nobody knows Kobe better than his dad who was for sure, his first basketball idol.
When Kobe entered the NBA, his first big brother was Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was a star when Kobe was a rookie and they became a hit as the 1-2 punch of the Los Angeles Lakers. Remember Kobe’s first season when he shot airballs against the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs? It was Shaq who comforted him and told him everything would be alright.
When the Lakers made their first championship run, it was Kobe’s alley-oop to Shaq that punctuated a stunning rally that helped the Lakers win the Western Conference Finals. They would win three straight NBA titles together and during their reign, they were the best duo in the NBA.
I know that Kobe and Shaq ended in a divorce and there were years when the two of them didn’t get along well. But time healed all wounds and in the latter part of their careers, they treated each other with the highest respect. Shaq was Kobe’s big brother and Kobe was Shaq’s little brother. Theirs was a beautiful friendship.
Everyone wanted to be like Mike, even Kobe. People say that Kobe was the closest to MJ than any other basketball player after Jordan and there’s a reason. Before his final game in Chicago, Bryant talked about studying Michael Jordan exclusively when he was a kid. That’s why the moves looked oh so familiar.
Bryant idolized Jordan and he was relentless in his pursuit of MJ’s six championship rings. Kobe came up short there but he passed MJ on the scoring list, ending up in third before he retired. Bryant competed like Jordan, scored like Jordan, and screamed at his teammates the way MJ would.
But MJ wasn’t just an inspiration on the court. Jordan gave Kobe plenty of tips in life and business. Both were very successful businessmen and both created their business empires. If there is someone who influenced Kobe most in sports and business, it was MJ.
While we agree that nobody on this list knew Kobe longer than Joe Bryant did, Vanessa comes in next. She was only 18 when they started dating and they ended up with four beautiful daughters. Kobe spent his last years on earth not as a basketball player but as a father and husband.
Vanessa gave up everything for Kobe and the kids. They were through some tough times, none tougher than the one that happened in Denver. During Kobe’s toughest hours, Vanessa stood by him despite the heavy criticism and kept their family together.
Mrs. Bryant delivered a very powerful message during the memorial for Kobe and Gianna. She proved that she could stand in front of a massive crowd and deliver her thoughts. I still have goosebumps when I remember her saying we’re still the best team as she told Kobe to take care of Gigi for her. What a strong woman!