Kobe Bryant is expected to be unanimously elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a top official said Monday.
“Kobe was about to be considered for enshrinement and certainly he would be a slam dunk to be enshrined this August,” Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva told KTLA sister station WWLP in Springfield, Massachusetts.
A memorial to the future Hall of Famer has been set up in the lobby of the Springfield facility and continued to grow Monday.
Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others — five adults and two children — in Calabasas on Sunday.
An iconic figure in Los Angeles and in the sports world, the Laker great’s death stunned fans, athletes and others alike.
“It was shocking. I mean, it’s unbelievable that this would happen to Kobe Bryant. He’s 41 years old, such an inspiration in basketball, just a powerful person in basketball,” Doleva said.
Bryant, who retired in 2016, was announced last month as one of the nominees for the 2020 class.
In his 20 seasons for the Lakers, Bryant helped lead the team to five championships, being named Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010. He was an 18-time All Star and the league MVP in 2008.
Bryant finished his career as the NBA’s third-leading scorer, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. Current Laker LeBron James passed his points total on Saturday night against the 76ers, in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia.
Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bryant was a top candidate who “obviously would be elected” to the Hall, according to Doleva.
“Ironically, there are 24 honors committee voters, his number is 24 and I would certainly believe that he would be a unanimous choice to be a member of the class of 2020,” he said.
Doleva noted the Hall of Fame has never before had a situation where a star player died prior to being enshrined.
“It’s a very different experience now. It’s in memoriam, and that’s very difficult for the Hall of Fame, especially for a guy that’s 41 and had so much impact on the game,” Doleva said. “This is new territory for us. So we’ll find our way with that.”
He added that the hall will look at how to celebrate his life and contributions to the game.
Bryant was among the group of high-profile, first time nominees who were announced as eligible candidates for the Class of 2020. The notable list included Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Shawn Marion, Michael Finley, Tamika Catchings and Swin Cash.
Finalists will be announced next week during the NBA’s All Star Weekend, while the entire class will be unveiled during the NCAA Men’s Final Four in early April.
The enshrinement ceremony will take place in Springfield on Aug. 29.
The Hall of Fame joins the rest of the basketball world in mourning the untimely passing of Kobe Bryant, a nominee for this year’s #20HoopClass and an icon of the game. We offer our sincerest condolences to the Bryant Family and those affected by this tragedy. pic.twitter.com/ltkHLwQ4qS
— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) January 27, 2020