The worst thing to happen to a parent is the death of their child. Vanessa Bryant had the double tragedy of losing her husband of nearly 20 years, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, 41, and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna, “Gigi,” when the helicopter they were riding in crashed into a foggy hillside in Calabasas, CA on Jan. 26. Gigi’s school had a service in her memory where they retired her number 2 basketball jersey, as she was the star of the eighth grade team at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach, CA. Vanessa, 37, shared Instagram pics and video on Feb. 5 of the service. Gigi’s basketball coach spoke of her tenacious “Mamba mentality” work ethic, just like her dad. You can watch more of the touching speeches about Gigi, including ones from her principal and fellow student council members at Vanessa’s Instagram account here.
“My Gianna. God I miss you. I’ve been so lucky to have woken up to see your gorgeous face and amazing smile for 13 years. Wish it would’ve been until my last breath. Mommy loves you to the moon and back. Infinity plus 1. #2 #Mambacita #GigiBryant ❤️,” Vanessa captioned one heartbreaking photo of the memorial set up in the school gym.
Gigi was a basketball prodigy, just like her father. Kobe described her on a Jimmy Kimmel Live appearance as being better than he was at her age. The retired Laker coached her AAU basketball Team Mamba through his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, CA. That’s where Kobe and Gigi were headed for a basketball tournament when their helicopter went down in heavy fog, killing the father and daughter, as well as seven others aboard.
Kobe’s Los Angeles Lakers paid tribute to their most legendary player during their first game back since his death. The Jan. 31 pre-game memorial brought tears to the eyes of current stars LeBron James, 35, and Anthony Davis, 26. It featured a rendition of “Amazing Grace” performed by Usher, accompanied by an organ. Then a video retrospective was shown on the jumbortron of Kobe’s 20 year career as a Laker, his post-NBA life that included winning an Oscar for his Dear Basketball Best Short Animation, and of course his life as a husband and dad to four beloved daughters. LeBron then gave a speech straight from the heart, honoring his close friend and “big brother.”