Vanessa Bryant paid an emotional tribute to her late husband Kobe as he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday (15.05.21).

Vanessa and Kobe Bryant

Vanessa and Kobe Bryant

The sporting icon died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in January 2020, and Vanessa paid a glowing tribute to Kobe during the ceremony.

She said: "I used to always avoid praising my husband in public because I felt like he got enough praise from his fans. Along the road someone had to bring him back to reality. Right now I am sure he is 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***?'"

Vanessa revealed she decided to follow in Kobe's footsteps by not preparing her speech beforehand.

She explained: "I don't have a speech prepared about my husband because he winged every single speech.

"He was intelligent, eloquent, and gifted at many things, including public speaking. However, I do know that he would thank everyone that helped him get here, including the people that doubted him and the people that worked against him and told him he couldn't attain his goals. He would thank all of them for motivating him to be here. After all, he proved you wrong."

Vanessa, 39, noted that while Kobe is best remembered for his skills on the basketball court, he always considered his family to be his priority.

Vanessa - who also has Natalia, 18, Bianka, four, and Capri, 22 months, with the NBA star - said: "Kobe had many accomplishments. His most cherished accomplishment was being the very best girl dad."

She concluded her speech by sending a series of thank you messages to her late husband.

She explained: "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 do better. Thank you for never giving up on us. Thank you for all of your hard work. Thank you for our family. Thank you for our daughters. Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri.

"Thank you for working so tirelessly to provide for us and for giving us the most amazing life together. Thank you enough to last five times, and every lifetime I choose you."

During her emotional speech, Vanessa added: "You once told me, if you are 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."

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