This weekend that path winds its way into New England, where Jordan will once more show Bryant the way, this time formally inviting him atop basketball’s most elite mountaintop.
The late Los Angeles Lakers legend enters the Hall as the glistening centerpiece of a star-studded 2020 class, one which also includes fellow players Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, as well as former WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings and three-time NCAA National Championship coach Kim Mulkey. The nationally televised ceremony tips-off at 5:30 p.m. from Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“I don’t know why,” he says, “but I just can’t delete it.”
But Bryant’s ceremony will be far different than Jordan’s, as the former’s absence figures to hang palpably in the air, just as both Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys float among the Staples Center rafters.
At age 41, Bryant is the rare legend to die prior to his own Hall of Fame induction. The world will never know what he might have said on this evening, how he’d have reflected on his journey, the one traveled along the path paved by Jordan that he was further clearing for Gianna, herself a blossoming basketball player.
And while Bryant’s acceptance speech will go unheard, his achievements have long spoken for themselves. During his 20-year-career — all spent with the Lakers — the 6’6″ Bryant collected five NBA championships, was selected to 18 All-Star teams, earned the NBA MVP, and twice led the league in scoring. His 33,643 points scored are 4th most all-time, 1,351 ahead of Jordan, who sits one place back of Bryant.
But as close as Bryant and Jordan were statistically, it’s unlikely that numbers will drive the narrative during this weekend’s events. More likely, the conversation will center around the passion shared by the two elite masters of their craft, one gone far too soon, the other called upon one final time to set the stage for his little brother.