Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett and six others will forever be basketball legends as it was announced they would be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The Hall of Fame's announcement was delayed from the NCAA's Final Four weekend in Atlanta after the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it comes a little over two months after Bryant died in a helicopter crash.
"We wish that he was here with us to celebrate but it's definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him, and there’s some solace in knowing that he was probably going to be part of the 2020 Hall of Fame class," Bryant's wife, Vanessa, said in an interview with ESPN, as she began to choke up.
John Doleva, the president and CEO of the Hall of Fame, said this class was "undoubtedly one of the most historic of all time," especially during a period of tragedy and hardship for basketball.
“In 2020, the basketball community has suffered the unimaginable loss of iconic figures Commissioner David Stern and Kobe Bryant, as well as the game itself due to COVID-19," Doleva said. "We have also banded together like never before in appreciation of the game and those who have made it the uniting force it is today."
Bryant, Duncan and Garnett combined for 48 NBA All-Star game appearances, the most of any trio who retired in the same season. They are inducted alongside basketball coaches Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, and Barbara Stevens as well as WNBA All-Star Tamika Catchings and French basketball executive Patrick Baumann.
The moment, however, is particularly poignant because of the recent, sudden death of Bryant, considered one of the most elite players to dominate the basketball court for the NBA.
"He was one of the greatest competitors who stepped on the court and made sure his impact was felt on both sides of the ball," the Hall of Fame said of Bryant.
The all-time leading scorer for the Los Angeles Lakers during his 20-year professional career, Bryant became one of the biggest basketball stars in modern history. The nation came to reflect on Bryant's career after he died in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant on Jan. 26.
"All of us can trust that this Basketball Hall of Fame honor is one Kobe would, and will, deeply appreciate," Lakers Vice President and General Manager Rob Pelinka said. "The highest of congratulations to you, dear friend. This one is so well deserved — for all the hard work, sweat and toil. Now, a part of you will live in the Hall with the rest of the all-time greats, where your legend and spirit will continue to grow forever.”