Vanessa Bryant, 37, was missing her daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant on Apr. 18 when she posted a message expressing her pride over the late basketball player after she was honored by the Women’s National Basketball Association. The doting mom shared a smiling photo of her “baby girl”, who died in a helicopter crash in Jan. at the age of 13, in her white and black basketball jersey and shorts after it was announced that she was chosen to be the WNBA’s youngest honorary draft pick.
“I’m so proud of you, Gigi. God I miss you baby,” Vanessa’s heartbreaking caption read for the pic. “You deserved to live a long, healthy and happy life. I wish I could hold you and tell you how proud I am of you. You’re the best, baby girl. Mommy loves and misses you more than I could ever express. ❤️ @WNBA #2 Gianna “Gigi” Bryant Youngest draft pick ❤️🏀My “mambacita” a.k.a. Wings.”
In addition to Gianna, her 13-year-old Mamba Sports Academy teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, who also died in the crash with her, were also honored as WNBA honorary picks. Before her latest post, Vanessa shared a video of herself tearfully thanking the WNBA for honoring Gigi while wearing her late husband Kobe Bryant‘s orange sweatshirt. “Thank you so much for honoring my Gigi and selecting her to be an honorary draft pick this year. It would’ve been a dream come true for her,” she said in the video. “She worked tirelessly every single day. She wanted to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, just like her daddy. So thank you. Thank you for honoring my little girl. Kobe and Gigi loved the WNBA…this is [Kobe’s] sweatshirt…I want to congratulate all of this year’s draft picks. So congratulations. Work hard. Never settle. Use that Mamba Mentality.”
Gigi, Alyssa, and Payton died along with Gigi’s dad Kobe, Alyssa’s parents John and Keri Altobelli, Payton’s mother Sarah Chester, Mamba Sports Academy assistant coach Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan after the helicopter they were all traveling in crashed in Calabasas, CA on Jan. 26.