Kobe Bryant will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, bypassing the normal election process following the helicopter crash that claimed his and his daughter’s lives, as well as seven others, in California on Sunday.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the news, which the NBA has yet to confirm.
‘Expected to be arguably the most epic class ever with Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett,’ Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo told Charania. ‘Kobe will be honored the way he should be.’
Bryant was part of a 2020 class of nominees that included many of his greatest rivals, such as Tim Duncan, Tim Hardaway, and Kevin Garnett, who preceded the Lakers legend in jumping straight from high school to the NBA.
Kobe Bryant will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame with the class of 2020
It is not clear who will induct Bryant, but there will be no shortage of candidates, including his former coach, Phil Jackson, or teammates such as Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, or Derek Fisher.
‘For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,’ NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. ‘He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary … but he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.’
The rest of the Hall of Fame class will be announced in April.
Bryant will certainly be remembered for his accomplishments, such as his five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, two Olympic gold medals, and for scoring more points than all but three players in league history. (He was actually surpassed by LeBron James on Saturday)
But Bryant’s most memorable quality was his unwavering self confidence.
Magic Johnson, Jeanie Buss, Kobe Bryant, wife Vanessa Bryant and daughters Gianna Maria Onore Bryant, Natalia Diamante Bryant, Bianka Bella Bryant and Rob Pelinka pose for a picture during Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement ceremony on December 18, 2017
He jumped straight from a Philadelphia high school to the NBA Draft at 17, forgoing college at a time when predominant wisdom dictated that prospects develop their game at the NCAA level. And although he couldn’t even vote when his NBA career began in 1996, he refused to kowtow to his veteran teammates, famously feuding with O’Neal over the All-Star center’s conditioning and dedication.
‘I remember one thing he said: If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you’ve got to put the work in,’ James told reporters of Bryant on Saturday. ‘There’s no substitution for work.’
Even at the end of his career, when a battered 37-year-old Bryant and the Lakers finished just 17-65, the 18-time All-Star gave a fitting farewell, dominating the Utah Jazz in his final game while scoring 60 points — the most by any player in the NBA that season.
Bryant celebrates with his father after winning the NBA Finals trophy against the Indiana Pacers in 2000
Bryant’s self-assuredness continued into his post-playing career.
In addition to his vast endorsement deals, Kobe established his own sports brand, Kobe Inc., and saw his share in the business get a reported $200 million valuation in 2018.
That same year he produced an animated short film, ‘Dear Basketball,’ that ultimately won an Oscar and a Sports Emmy – two of the innumerable awards that found their way to Bryant.
‘They’re at the top for me,’ Bryant told USA Today of the honors. ‘It’s not something that was expected. As a kid, you kind of have the goal of winning championships and all these sorts of things. Being in the industry that I’m in now? It wasn’t something that was thought of me winning an Oscar.’
‘Kobe was not only an icon in the sports arena, he was a man of the world and touched so many lives and communities in the most positive ways,’ said Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
‘His star was continuing to rise every day and he knew no limits because of his many intellectual and creative talents and desire to give back to others – his passion for the game, for his family and for others was apparent in everything he accomplished.’
Naturally, Bryant did not have any humble origins.
Born in Philadelphia to 76ers forward Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant and Pamela Cox, the sister of another NBA player, Kobe’s life was inextricably linked to basketball, and not just in the United States.
After a solid eight-year NBA career, Joe moved the family to Italy when Kobe was just six to continue playing professionally.
It was there that Bryant learned to speak Italian fluently, scoured the NBA highlight videos his grandfather sent him from the U.S., and rooted for his father’s teammate, current Houston Rockets and former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni.
Throughout it all, basketball remained a constant in Bryant’s life
His family moved back to Philadelphia at the end of his father’s basketball career. The younger Bryant attended Lower Merion High School, where his jersey is now retired, and by his senior year had become a national sensation.
The Lakers traded star center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for a Bryant’s draft rights in 1996, and the budding superstar rewarded Los Angeles by winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award as a rookie.
Bryant was a starter by his second season, and when coach Phil Jackson brought the famous triangle offense to the Lakers in 1999, Los Angeles came back to prominence, winning three consecutive titles.
Even after the team traded O’Neal to the Miami Heat, the Lakers re-loaded with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, helping Bryant to win another two NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.
But Bryant’s life had its valleys along with its peaks.
He suffered an Achilles tendon injury at 34 that more or less ended his days as an elite NBA player.
More infamously, Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003 by a 19-year-old woman working at a Colorado resort, where he was recovering from surgery. Bryant claimed the sex was consensual and prosecutors dropped the charges at the request of the accuser after a reported deal was struck.
The incident became tabloid fodder as Bryant gave his wife Vanessa a ring reportedly worth $4 million as an apology.
But Bryant still managed to repair his image, and even became known as doting father to his four daughters.
In fact, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, Bryant was on his way to see daughter Gianna play basketball when his helicopter crashed, killing her, a teammate and a parent. (Bryant’s other three children and wife were not on the helicopter)
The cause of the crash has not been determined, and it’s not clear if or when those questions may be answered.
What was readily apparent after the crash, however, was the impact that Bryant had on his fans, particularly those in Los Angeles.
According to multiple reports, mourners wearing Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys began assembling on Sunday evening outside Staples Center, where the Grammy Awards were being held.
Bryant’s image already dots many of the murals throughout the city.
Even James felt compelled to honor Bryant on Saturday as he surpassed him on the all-time scoring list. Referencing his nickname, James wrote ‘Mamba 4 Life’ and ‘8/24 KB’ on his sneakers.
‘It’s another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school,’ James told reporters in Bryant’s home town of Philadelphia on Saturday. ‘Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration.
‘It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling.’
James is just one of the people that Bryant inspired, and judging by the outpouring of sorrow on the streets of Los Angeles, he is in considerable company.
‘Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court — and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved,’ Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said: ‘The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.
‘For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.
‘He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.
‘We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world.’