Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said the "legend and spirit" of longtime Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant will "continue to grow forever" after he was posthumously elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Here's the complete statement from Pelinka, one of Bryant's closest friends:
"Kobe was always one to downplay his professional accomplishments—MVPs, NBA championships, gold medals, Oscars, and on and on and on. But all of us can trust that this Basketball Hall of Fame honor is one Kobe would, and will, deeply appreciate. The highest of congratulations to you, dear friend. 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."
Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others were killed Jan. 26 when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas, California.
Pelinka was one of the people who spoke during the memorial service Feb. 24 and he recalled his difficulty in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy:
"The day after Kobe was gone, I was at home and feeling totally lost. I couldn't imagine life without the strength and guidance of my best friend. As part of my grieving, I felt an overwhelming need to connect with something tangible, that represented our friendship—a picture, a voicemail, something that Kobe left behind. My wife reminded me of the book Kobe authored and had recently given to me. I went upstairs and found the book in my library and opened it, and on the inside cover, he had penned ... these words: 'To Rob, my brother: May you always remember to enjoy the road, especially when it's a hard one. Love, Kobe.'"
Pelinka also told a terrific story about Bryant taking up tennis after his basketball career and, after the Lakers GM won their first couple of matches, the 18-time NBA All-Star began secretly receiving lessons in order to turn the tables. It showed the competitive fire that made him among the best players in history.
"Typical Mamba mentality," he said. "We loved our matches and stories and memories we would share on those beautiful California days."
Bryant was selected to the Hall of Fame alongside Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich, Tamika Catchings, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens and Patrick Baumann.