Kobe Bryant dead at 41: Hall of Fame chairman says NBA legend 'will be honored the way he should be' in 2020
Jerry Colangelo says he expects Kobe Bryant to be among an 'epic class' in his first year of eligibility
When the latest class of inductees hit the stage at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts later this year, there will be a colossal void. After two decades of dominance in the NBA, a run that included five championships, two Finals MVP awards, a regular-season MVP, 18 All-Star appearances, two gold medals and a dunk contest title, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was set to take his place among the sport's greatest names.
Alongside career adversaries such as Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, Bryant was part of the 2020 class of nominees that was officially announced in December, and his resume speaks for itself; he's a no-brainer selection. A shoe-in. However, we won't get an opportunity to see Bryant take that stage, flanked by supporters, and reflect on a career that inspired millions as the Lakers legend was killed in a helicopter accident in Calabasas, California on Sunday morning. The news shook the sports world to its core, but in the aftermath the Hall of Fame chairman expects Bryant to be inducted as a first-ballot enshrinement in 2020.
"Expected to be arguably the most epic class ever with Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett," Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a statement, per Shams Charania. "Kobe will be honored the way he should be."
Bryant, who is set to get into the Hall in his first year of eligibility, will be part of standard Hall of Fame screening process on Wednesday, per Charania. Finalists will be announced in February at the NBA All-Star break and formal inductees will be announced at the Final 4 in April. Like countless others, the Hall also took to Twitter on Sunday night to mourn Bryant's passing and extend condolences to his family.
The Hall of Fame joins the rest of the basketball world in mourning the untimely passing of Kobe Bryant, a nominee for this year’s #20HoopClass and an icon of the game. We offer our sincerest condolences to the Bryant Family and those affected by this tragedy. pic.twitter.com/ltkHLwQ4qS
— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) January 27, 2020
There will almost certainly be a tribute to Bryant and his career at the ceremony in September, and players like Garnett and Duncan will likely use some of their time at the podium to pay homage to all that Bryant did for the game of basketball.
"For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement on Sunday. "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."
Considering the impact that Bryant had on the game, and the fact that he had one of the most decorated careers in recent memory, the Hall's decision doesn't come as a surprise at all. However, the fact that Bryant won't be there himself will certainly put a damper on what would have been an otherwise celebratory evening. It's nice to know that Bryant will be where he belong in the annals of basketball history surrounded by peers whose respect he earned through his dedication to the game, but it still stings that he won't get to experience the induction himself.