Inductions to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame are typically events where careers are celebrated, memories are refreshed, and legendary memes are born.
May 15 still had the typical festivities of a hall of fame induction, but it also came with a somber tone as one of the game’s all-time greats, the late Kobe Bryant, joined his peers among the pantheon of basketball legends. Him not being there to take it all in and reunite with his teammates, coaches, and former rivals feels unfair.
Emotions are still raw over the sudden passing of Bryant, who along with his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash more than a year ago on January 26, 2020.
The five-time NBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medallist, and Academy Award winner was a hero for this generation’s NBA stars and many others, thanks in large part to his refined skill set, legendary work ethic, and arguably unparalleled passion for the game of basketball. With career averages of 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists, the 2008 NBA MVP and 15-time All-NBA selection never shied away from the big stage and was a relentless student of the game, earning the respect of both fans and peers alike.
Perhaps nothing will ever encapsulate respect as much as having the GOAT himself, Michael Jordan induct Bryant into the hall of fame. Jordan may have not have spoken during the induction, but his presence alone was enough to show how much he meant to Kobe.
As relentless as he was on the court, Bryant carried on that same mentality in his post-retirement career. Kobe created the eponymous Kobe Inc. and Granity Studios while also forming the venture capital firm Bryant-Stibel with entrepreneur Jeff Stibel.
The early results were promising and he was racking up accomplishments the same way he collected NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. Almost two years after hanging up his sneakers, he won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball, the poem he penned when he announced his retirement. The initial $6 million he invested in Bodyarmor SuperDrink has already grown to around $200 million. The Mamba Mentality: How I Play and The Wizarenard Series: Season One, a book he collaborated on with Wesley King, were also New York Times bestsellers.
Gone too soon is a phrase often mentioned when young men and women pass on way before they should. That it is mentioned in the same breath as Bryant makes it more painful (especially for basketball fans) by a thousandfold.
No one felt the loss as hard as that of Kobe’s wife Vanessa and their surviving children Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. For 20 years, Kobe devoted time to his craft and while he sacrificed some time away from his family, he always made time for them whenever he could. He was arguably the ultimate #GirlDad, and as has been mentioned by many, it was something he took pride in more than any championship, gold medal, and even his Oscar.
#MambaForever takes on a whole new meaning now that Kobe Bryant has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. To say that he inspired a generation would be an understatement as Bryant’s peak and influence came at the sweet spot where sports and pop culture became intertwined.