Vanessa Bryant fought through tears during a heartfelt speech at Staples Center on Monday morning for the public memorial held for her late husband Kobe and daughter Gianna Bryant. The Lakers legend and his 13-year-old daughter were two of seven others who perished in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA on January 26. Today marks Vanessa’s first public appearance following the tragic accident. Kobe was 41.
“First, I’d like to thank everyone for coming today. The outpouring of love and support that my family has felt has been so up lifting. thank you for your prayers,” Vanessa began. “I’d like to talk about both Kobe and Gigi. I’ll start with my baby girl first.”
“My baby girl,” Vanessa addressed her daughter. “She was an amazingly sweet, gentle soul. She was always thoughtful and always kissed me goodnight and good morning… She was daddy’s girl, but I know she loved her momma,” Vanessa continued. “She was one of my very best friends. She loved putting a smile on everyone’s face… Last August she made a beautiful cake for her daddy’s birthday.”
"We're still the best team."
Vanessa Bryant remembers her husband, Kobe ❤️https://t.co/rlYAsoYrk0
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) February 24, 2020
Vanessa continued to share memories and traits of Gigi’s that her loved ones admired about her.
“She was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh, it was infectious, it was pure and genuine,” she said, explaining, “Kobe and Gianna naturally gravitated toward each other. She had Kobe’s ability to listen to a song and memorize all of the lyrics. It was a her secret talent. She was an incredible athlete… Gigi was confident but not in an arrogant way… She was very much like her daddy and that they both like helping people learn things and master things.”
Vanessa went on to express how she “won’t be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I’ll never get to see my baby walk down the aisle and have a father-daughter dance with her daddy,” she added. “Gigi would’ve most likely become the best player in the WNBA. She would’ve made a huge difference for women’s basketball Gigi was motivated to change the way everyone viewed women in sports,” Vanessa said about Gigi, who longed to play for UCONN.
“Love you so much Gigi. I will miss your sweet handmade cards, your sweet kisses and gorgeous smile. I miss you, all of you every day. I love you,” Vanessa tearfully concluded.
Vanessa then spoke about her beloved Kobe.
“Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court… and the Black Mamba, but to me, he was ‘Kob Kob,’ my ‘boo boo’… I was his ‘queen Mamba’…,” Vanessa said. “He was my sweet husband. Kobe and I had been together since I was 17-years-old… he was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could put into words… I was fire and he was ice… we balanced each other out… He was truly the romantic one in our relationship.”
Vanessa noted that Kobe had once given her the same blue dress Rachel McAdams wore her film, The Notebook. “We had hope to grow old together like the movie,” she added.
“A couple weeks before they, passed Kobe sent me a text that he wanted to spend time together, just us, because I was his best friend first,” Vanessa, who said she still has the message, recalled. “We never got to do that. Kobe wanted us to renew our vows, Natalia to take over his company, and travel the world together. Kobe was the MVP of girl dads. He never left the toilet seat up he always told the girls how beautiful and smart they were and how to be brave and keep pushing forward no matter how tough things got.”
Vanessa concluded with one last ask of her late husband, “You take care of Gigi and I got Nani, BB, Koko… were still the best team,” she said. “We love and miss you boo boo and Gigi may you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day. we love and miss you both forever and always, mommy.”
The seven others killed in the helicopter crash included: John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, his wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter Alyssa Altobelli; Christina Mauser, an assistant basketball coach at Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy; Payton Chester, who played on the team; her mother, Sarah Chester; and Ara Zobayan, the pilot.
Kobe and Gianna were laid to rest earlier this month in a private burial in California. Our thoughts are with the Bryant family, as well as the other families impacted by this horrific tragedy.