The late Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January, has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Bryant and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of Hall of Famers.
“An amazing class,” Duncan said.
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 were the other Hall of Fame inductees.
A five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant is the only NBA player in history to have two numbers—No. 8 and No. 24—retired on his behalf by the same team.
“We wish that he was here with us to celebrate,” Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, said on the ESPN broadcast of the class announcement. “But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him.”
Bryant died about three weeks before the Hall of Fame announced he was a finalist.
John Doleva, the president and CEO of the Hall of Fame, was cited by NBC as saying that this class was “undoubtedly one of the most historic of all time.”
“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.”
The news of who makes it into the Hall of Fame is normally revealed at the site of the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, which this year would have been Atlanta, but the entire NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the outbreak of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly referred to as the novel coronavirus.
Bryant was 41 when he died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash, which claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter and seven others.
He was an 18-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion, two-time scoring champion, and the 2007-08 Most Valuable Player.
The Los Angeles Lakers great ranks fourth in NBA history in points, and he was selected to the All-Defensive team 12 times.
“The highest of congratulations to you, dear friend,” Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka said in a statement, Sports Illustrated reported.
“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,” Pelinka said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.