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Vanessa Bryant/Instagram Natalia and Vanessa Bryant
On Saturday, Vanessa, 39, accepted the honorary award on the late NBA star's behalf and gave a moving speech about her beloved husband's career. Natalia did not attend the ceremony event with her mom but joined Vanessa the day prior in receiving Kobe's Hall of Fame jacket and ring during the Tip-Off Celebration and Awards Gala.
In an Instagram post shared Sunday, Vanessa revealed that Natalia had missed Saturday's induction ceremony because the event fell on the same night as her senior prom and Vanessa didn't want her daughter to "miss out" on a "once in a lifetime" experience.
"Natalia almost missed her senior prom last night," wrote Vanessa alongside a photo of the mom kissing her daughter on the cheek. "When I was a senior in high school, Kobe and I were engaged and he had a playoff game the night of my prom. Kobe didn't want me going to prom without him and I didn't want to go without him. When we heard Natalia's prom night and Kobe's Hall of Fame night were on the same night, I looked at Natalia and said, 'well if it's any consolation, daddy kept me from going to my prom, so it's only right that he tried to keep you from going to yours.' 😃."
She continued in her post caption, "Of course we laughed because even in heaven, he's still trying to make moves and keep the boys away. Natalia's experienced so much loss, I couldn't let her miss out on her once in a lifetime opportunity to go to her senior prom. Thank you for flying out to accept daddy's Hall of Fame jacket and fly home the next morning. #HallofFame #SeniorPromNight @nataliabryant."
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images Vanessa Bryant and daughter Natalia
In a follow-up post, Vanessa shared a photo of her daughter standing in the middle of family friends Russell Wilson and Ciara with the caption, "Off to prom (yesterday)," she said referring to Saturday evening.
In addition to Natalia, Vanessa is mom to daughters Capri, 22 months, and Bianka, 4. Her daughter Gianna was also killed in the January 2020 tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe and seven others.
During her speech at the induction, which was held in Springfield, Massachusetts, Vanessa spoke about how much Kobe was looking forward to the Hall of Fame ceremony before his tragic death.
"I wish my husband was here to accept this incredible award," said Vanessa. "He and Gigi deserve to be here to witness this. Gigi would be so proud to watch her daddy get enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. I know Kobe was looking forward to being here. He asked the Hall of Fame to specifically add a sixth ticket for Capri, he was so happy."
"There will never be anyone like Kobe," she continued. "Kobe was one of a kind. He was special, he was humble off the court but bigger than life. To all of our close friends and family that have been present for my girls and I, thank you. That list is long and it takes a village but know that your kindness and love does not go unappreciated. I know that Kobe is thankful that you're all coming through for his girls. We love you and are forever grateful for you."
ESPN Vanessa Bryant
While on stage, Vanessa also read a letter she wrote to Kobe, giving more thanks to him for everything during their two decades of marriage after they first met on the set of a music video in 1999, when Kobe was 20 and she was 17.
"Dear Kobe, thank you for being the best husband and father you can possibly be. Thank you for growing and learning from your own mistakes. Thank you for always trying to be better. Thank you for never giving up on us," she said, in part. "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."
Kobe was selected as part of the Hall of Fame's class of 2020 alongside Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, as well as WNBA star Tamika Catchings, coaches Kim Mulkey, Rudy Tomjanovich, Barbara Stevens and Eddie Sutton.
The annual event was originally slated to take place in August 2020, but was delayed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Bryant now has a standalone exhibit at the museum, which Vanessa helped design, the Los Angeles Times reported. The exhibit is called "Kobe: A Basketball Life," and is a rare inclusion for an inductee.
Items displayed include portions of the court at Bryant's high school in Pennsylvania, as well as replicas of the five championship rings he helped the Los Angeles Lakers win. Other items featured are the pair of sneakers he had on while scoring a career-high 81 points during a game in 2006.
His Oscar-winning animated short film Dear Basketball also plays in the space.