Los Angeles Lakers' Rob Pelinka 'Heartbroken' Late Friend Kobe Bryant Won't See Hall of Fame Honor

Kobe Bryant was posthumously chosen to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month

Kobe Bryant, Rob Pelinka
Kobe Bryant, Rob Pelinka. Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty

Earlier this month, Kobe Bryant achieved what so many NBA players dream of accomplishing — and his longtime friend Rob Pelinka is “heartbroken” the late Los Angeles Lakers star won’t be there to see it.

On April 4, Bryant was posthumously named a member of this year’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class. The honor comes just over two months after Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were killed with seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on January 26.

“It was a moment that was full of mixed emotion,” Pelinka — the Lakers’ vice president of basketball ops and general manager — told reporters of Bryant’s milestone on Thursday.

“I think all of us are heartbroken that he couldn’t be there to receive that moment in person,” he said. “But I have a level of confidence he’s with us in spirit and still is celebrating that.”

The duo shared a close friendship for many years, with Pelinka serving as Bryant’s agent during his NBA career. Pelinka was also Gianna’s godfather.

“He was one of the players I think that led the charge of really reaching out to all-time greats to try to collect wisdom and advice from them,” the 50-year-old said of Bryant’s work ethic, according to NBA.com. “I think back to him reaching out to Hakeem Olajuwon to have a footwork workout with him, or the countless conversations with Michael that have been chronicled so well over the past few weeks to Lakers legacy and history with Magic.”

Kobe Bryant, Rob Pelinka
The Bryant family. Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

“He was one of the first players, I think, to really, really tap in to getting knowledge from the all-time greats and to be inspired by them,” Pelinka said.

“And to think now that a part of him will live in the Hall of Fame, a part of his spirit will always be there, the inspiration flips I think from those type of players inspiring him to now him being an inspiration to all of them and to all of us,” he added.

Bryant will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with two other NBA greats: Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. Other inductees include WNBA star Tamika Catchings, coaches Kim Mulkey, Rudy Tomjanovich, Barbara Stevens and Eddie Sutton. Longtime FIBA executive Patrick Baumann was also announced as an inductee.

For many fans, there was no doubt Bryant would become a first-ballot Hall of Famer thanks to his extensive resume, which includes five NBA championships (all with the Lakers), two NBA Finals MVP Awards, and 18 All-Star appearances. He is also the only NBA player to have two jerseys retired by the same team — both Bryant’s No. 24 and No. 8 now hang from the rafters at Staples Center.

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“When people talk about the greats of all time, it’s pretty difficult to say who was No. 1, and who’s 2, and who’s 3, but there are four to five names that always get mentioned, we know that. Kobe’s right there with everybody,” Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo told NBA TV shortly after Bryant’s death.

The Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony is scheduled to take place on Aug. 28.

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