In the nearly one year since Kobe Bryant’s death, Natalia Bryant has been her mom, Vanessa Bryant’s, rock. Natalia celebrated her 18th birthday on Jan. 19, and Vanessa took to Instagram with a series of throwback photos and sweet messages for her girl. She gushed over her favorite qualities about Natalia, and thanked her for stepping up to help raise her younger sisters, Bianka, 4, and Capri, 1, after Kobe’s passing.
“Mommy and Daddy are so proud of the young lady that you are,” Vanessa gushed. “You have displayed so much strength and grace throughout the most difficult year of our lives. Thank you for stepping in to help me with your little sisters. You’re such an incredible big sister and a beautiful role model to so many people. Thank you for being kind, polite, gracious in everything you do. You have no idea how happy and proud mommy and daddy are that you’re our daughter. We love you always and forever, forever and always.”
Vanessa shared a series of photos of Natalia taken at a photo shoot, as well as the most adorable throwback pic of her as a baby, being held by Kobe on the basketball court. There was also a shot of Vanessa, Kobe, and baby Natalia sitting in the middle of the Los Angeles Lakers emblem at the Staples Center. “Daddy’s little princess,” Vanessa wrote alongside one of the images.
Natalia’s birthday comes just one week ahead of the anniversary of Kobe’s tragic death. The NBA star died alongside his and Vanessa’s second oldest daughter, Gianna Bryant, 13, in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. However, amidst this extremely difficult time, the Bryant family also has a lot to celebrate, as Natalia is currently preparing to head off to college later this year.
Earlier this month, Vanessa revealed that New York University is one of Natalia’s top choices for college. Of course, if the proud mom has her way, her girl will stay much closer to home in California! She also shared that Natalia is considering the University of Southern California as another option. In just a few short months, the acceptance letters will go out and a decision will be made.