Kobe Bryant, the late basketballer who passed away in a helicopter crash that claimed his life along with his daughter and seven others, has been named as a finalist to the Basketball Hall of Fame, three weeks after his death.
In an illustrious career that lasted for twenty years, Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers and won five by five NBA championships with them. He also had two NBA Finals MVPs and one league MVP
Possible homage to the star
The announcement came during the NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago, which culminates on Sunday with an exhibition game featuring the sport's best players. The three-day event is likely to be muted as the National Basketball Association pays homage to the fallen star.
"I've never seen in my long life an athlete passing that had the impact that Kobe's passing had on people, people on the street, people that didn't even know him," said Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, after the announcement was made. "In my case it was personal... so much more difficult for me and family," said Colangelo, a long-time NBA executive who was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2004.
No. 24 and No. 8: Numbers for life
Bryant won nine All-Defensive First Team honours, four All-Star Game MVP awards and a Slam Dunk Contest title. Bryant also sits as the Lakers' all-time leader in several categories, including games played and steals.
Bryant wore the No. 24 and No. 8 during his career. Both numbers are retired by the Lakers with his jerseys hanging from the Staples Center rafters. Joining Bryant as finalists were former NBA stars Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh, along with former Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) stars Swin Cash and Tamika Catchings.
Three other finalists
Also named as finalists were three-time NCAA National Championship coach Kim Mulkey, five-time Division II National Coach of the Year Barbara Stevens, four-time National Coach of the Year Eddie Sutton and two-time NBA Champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Bryant was on his way with his daughter and seven others to a youth basketball tournament on January 26 when the helicopter they were in crashed in Calabassas, California.
Class of 2020 inductees will be named during the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta, Georgia in early April. The enshrinement ceremony will take place at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts on August 29.
(With inputs from agencies)