We LIVE for stories of perseverance, grittiness, and determination. We hear them all the time from racers in our community, but we also love to report on inspirational, badass stories from OUTSIDE the Spartan Universe — stories that we can learn from, that can help us become even more unbreakable. In Tough News, we share what we're hearing, why it's important, and why Spartans need to pay attention.
Kobe Bryant was so much more than just a legendary basketball player.
He was a doting father, a loving husband, a philanthropist, a successful businessman, an advocate for equality and social justice, an author, and an Academy Award winner.
The five-time NBA champion and 18-time NBA All-Star was also a tough-as-nails, win-at-all-costs, tireless worker who continually played through pain and injuries throughout his illustrious 20-year career.
Bryant, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020 — his daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, and seven others also died in the accident — was posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15, 2021.
The iconic shooting guard's wife, Vanessa, gave an impassioned, highly emotional, extremely touching speech honoring her late husband at the Hall of Fame ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts. Many parts of the speech were notable, but we were particularly taken with Vanessa's explanation for why her husband always strived to play through pain and remain on the court when most guys would have taken a seat on the bench.
The Hall of Fame Induction Speech
"People don't know this, but one of the reasons my husband played through injuries and pain was because he said he remembered being a little kid, sitting in the nosebleeds with his dad to watch his favorite player play," she said, referencing Michael Jordan. "He could recall the car ride, the convos, and the excitement of being lucky enough to have a seat in the arena.
"Kobe didn't want to disappoint his fans, especially the ones in the 300 section that saved up to watch him play, the kids with the same excitement he once had. I remember asking him why he just couldn't sit a game out because he was hurting. He said, 'What about the fans who saved up to watch me play just once?' He never forgot about his fans. If he could help it, he would play every minute of every game. He loved you all so much."
That wasn't the first time a legendary athlete expressed that belief. When Hall of Fame center fielder Joe DiMaggio was asked by a reporter why he hustles on each and every play — including in instances when that extra effort would likely have minimal effect on the outcome of the game — he famously replied, "Because there’s always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time. I owe him my best."
The Spartan Takeaway
Night in and night out, Bryant showed up and gave it his all. There were countless times that he could have opted to sit — nobody would have questioned him for it – but he lived by the credo that if he could play, he would play.
He did this because he lived to win, and he felt an obligation to his teammates and organization. But, as Vanessa mentioned, he also did it because he felt an obligation to the fans. If they were going to save up money and invest time and effort to see him play, he was going to be out there to make it worth their while. He felt compelled to live up to his responsibilities and compete to the best of his ability, regardless of what was ailing him.
That's why his legacy is not just that of an unbelievable basketball player, but also an all-time great competitor and workhorse.
Check out Vanessa's moving speech above. Plus, just to remind you of how truly gifted Kobe was on the court, watch the montage below of his 40 most tantalizing dunks. It will get you jacked up, guaranteed.