“As a wife and mother, I have thought a lot about what Vanessa Bryant has been going through this past year,” former First Lady Michelle Obama began a touching message on Instagram for her friend on May 18. Vanessa lost her husband of 19 years, Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant to a tragic helicopter crash in January of 2020, whom Vanessa both commemorated during her speech at Kobe’s posthumous induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15. The mother of four’s words moved Michelle, who wrote, “I was touched hearing her speak with such courage and strength this past weekend at the Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring Kobe.”
Michelle even rocked a “Mambacita” hoodie in the Instagram post, which was her way of continuing Kobe’s legacy in sports by helping young athletes pursue their dreams, just like Gigi once did. The young teen was Kobe’s protégé in basketball, thus earning her the nickname of Mambacita, which was a spin on Kobe’s “Black Mamba” nickname that he used on the court. This led Vanessa to change the name of Kobe’s Mamba Sports Foundation to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, which Vanessa raised money for with a streetwear collection with DANNIJO that dropped on May 1st (which would’ve been Gigi’s 15th birthday) — this is where our former First Lady’s hoodie came from!“I am proud to join so many others in building upon Gianna’s legacy by supporting the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation,” Michelle continued to write in her Instagram caption. As for what exactly the foundation does, it “provides funding and sports programming for underserved athletes to enable participation in school and/or league sports that enrich socio-emotional and physical development,” according to the foundation’s website.
Michelle concluded her heartfelt message with a personal note for Vanessa and the rest of her daughters, whom she shared with Kobe: Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and Capri, 1. “@VanessaBryant, all my love to you and the girls and the next generation of athletes you are working to empower. #PlayGigisWay,” the former FLOTUS wrote.
“I can see him now with arms folded, a huge grin saying isn’t this some sh*t.”
– Vanessa Bryant. 😂🙏
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) May 15, 2021
Vanessa became emotional as she spoke at the Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony this past Saturday, telling the audience, “I wish my husband was here to accept this incredible award. He and Gigi deserve to go here to witness this. Gigi would be so proud to watch her daddy get enshrined into the basketball Hall of Fame. I know he was looking forward to being here. He asked the hall of fame to specifically add a sixth ticket for Capri. He was so happy.” You can watch another part from her speech in the clip above.