In many sports, the pinnacle of recognition is being inducted into a Hall of Fame, upon which the honored recipients are often asked to make a speech. These speeches mostly involve the inductees thanking their families, their coaches, their teammates, and everyone else who helped them on their way — often accompanied by copious tears.
Some speeches are funny, while others are controversial. Michael Jordan famously gave a speech in which he took shots at pretty much everyone who had ever annoyed him, including other NBA legends, his old coaches, and even his college roommate (the speech also gave birth to the “Crying Jordan” meme).
The best Hall of Fame induction speeches tend to be those that inspire future generations — and, if possible, show some raw emotion and humor, too. Here are some quotes from Hall of Fame induction speeches from the NFL, NBA, and various other sports and their respective legends.
Life is short, it is oh so sweet. There are a lot of people that we meet as we walk through these hallowed halls, but the things that mean the most are the friendships that you meet and take along with you.
— Walter Payton, NFL running back, 1993
When you think of me, I would like you to remember that kid from the inner city that played the game with all his heart and never took the game for granted.
— Rickey Henderson, MLB left fielder, 2009
I see [boxing] as a sweet science, a magical dance. For me, I just wanted to live up to that, and keep the dignity and the humanistic aspect and the positiveness of it... so that people will remember that's what I did for boxing.
— Lennox Lewis, heavyweight boxer, 2009
There are no more routes to run, no more touchdowns to score, no more records to set. That young boy from Mississippi has finally stopped running. Let me stand here and catch my breath. Let me inhale it all in one more time.
— Jerry Rice, NFL wide receiver, 2010
People asked me how a person from Glennville, Georgia who went to Savannah State could win three Super Bowls. It's the three Ds: dedication, determination, and discipline. Don't hope someone gives you an opportunity. Create one for yourself.
— Shannon Sharpe, NFL tight end, 2011
Thank you, tennis. You gave me the world. And now I honestly am out of words, because there are no words to explain what I feel. You chose to give me a place here for eternity.
— Martina Hingis, former tennis world No. 1, 2013
[I want to thank] my mother-in-law, who for 33, 34 years has been by far my biggest fan. I have never thrown an interception that has been my fault, according to my mother-in-law, Ann.
— Brett Favre, NFL quarterback, 2016
Thank you [Coach Gregg Popovich] for teaching me about basketball, but even beyond that, teaching me that it’s not all about basketball. It’s about what’s happening in the world, about your family.
— Tim Duncan, NBA power forward, 2020
The word legacy is what I hope each of you remember. I stand here as a byproduct of so many legends whose footsteps I’ve followed in, and who have paved the way for my dream — our dream — to come true.
— Tamika Catchings, WNBA small forward, 2021
Nothing less than my best would be almost, like, not doing justice to [my parents] for the sacrifices that they made.
— Clint Dempsey, soccer forward and midfielder, 2022
I think that finding yourself in life, with the role you have — to embrace it, to love it — allows you to have the joy of success no matter what that means in numbers and wins and losses.
— Linda Hamilton, soccer defender, 2022
You did it. You’re in the Hall of Fame now. You’re a true champ. You’re not just an M.V.P. You’re an all-time great. I’m so proud of you. I love you forever and always, Kobe Bean Bryant.
— Vanessa Bryant, accepting the posthumous Hall of Fame induction of her husband, Kobe Bryant, NBA shooting guard, 2021
Photo credit: AnthiaCumming/ iStock