The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is set to bypass the normal election process and making the late Kobe Bryant the first inductee of the 2020 class.
Basketball icon Bryant, 41, died on Sunday along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash in California.
READ: Vale Kobe Bryant, a basketball and Lakers great
As an 18-time All-Star, a five-time NBA champion and the fourth-leading scorer in league history, Bryant was virtually assured of being elected on the first ballot in his first year of eligibility this year anyway.
“Expected to be arguably the most epic class ever with Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett,” Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said, as per a report in the Athletic.
“Kobe will be honoured the way he should be.”
The other 2020 finalists will be announced on February 14 during All-Star Weekend. The rest of the class will be announced in April at the Final Four, and Bryant’s posthumous induction will take place in Springfield, on August 29.
Meanwhile, thousands of fans have continued to gather at a shrine in Los Angeles – where Bryant spent his entire glittering 20-year NBA career – to pay tribute with a vigil outside the Staples Centre, home of his LA Lakers team.
And tributes also continued to flow in from major global sports stars on Monday.
Michael Jordan, arguably the most famous basketball player of all time, described Bryant as like his “little brother”.
He said to Sports Illustrated: “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling.
“I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much.”
Former England football captain David Beckham, who played for the LA Galaxy from 2007-12 and was a friend of Bryant’s, paid his own personal tribute.
Writing on his Instagram page, Beckham said: “This was one special athlete, husband, father and friend. Having to write these words is hard enough but also knowing we have lost an amazing human being and his beautiful and talented daughter Gianna is heartbreaking.”
In Melbourne, Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic led the tennis world in mourning Bryan’t death.
“My heart truly mourns over the news today. Kobe was a great mentor and friend to me,” the Serbian world No.2 wrote.
“You and your daughter will live forever in our hearts. There are not enough words to express my deepest sympathies to the Bryants and every family suffering from this tragedy.”
Djokovic’s great rival Rafa Nadal, revealed: “I woke up this morning to this terrible news, super sad,” the Spaniard said on Rod Laver Arena. “He was one of the greatest sportsmen in history.”
In his own touching tribute to Bryant, huge basketball fan and Australian star Nick Kyrgios donned an LA Lakers No.8 singlet as he entered the arena before his brave four-set defeat to top seed Nadal.
The 2008 Australian Open champion, Maria Sharapova, said of Bryant: “I will never forget your generosity, and the time you set aside in some of my most difficult moments. I am forever grateful. My heart is with you and your beautiful family.”