Vanessa Bryant said goodbye to her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna (Gigi), who were killed in a helicopter crash in California on January 26.
The public memorial was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Kobe, Gianna and all seven victims were honored. Vanessa gave a heartbreaking speech that honored both her daughter and her husband, who she calls her “soulmate.”
“First I’d like to thank everyone for coming today,” Vanessa began her speech.”The outpouring of love and support that my family has felt from around the world has been so uplifting. Thank you so much for all your prayers. I’d like to talk about both Kobe and Gigi, but I’ll start with my baby girl first.”
She went on to speak about what an sweet and loving girl that her daughter Gianna was saying, “she loved to bake. She loved putting a smile on everyone’s face.” Adding that Gianna was one of Vanessa’s very best friends.
“We will not be able to see Gigi go to high school with Natalia and ask her how her day went. We didn’t get a chance to teach her how to drive a car. I won’t be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I will never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, dance on the dance floor with me and have babies of her own. Gianna would have been an amazing mommy. She was very maternal ever since she was really little.
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. She wrote papers in school defending women and wrote about how the unequal pay difference for the NBA and WNBA leagues wasn’t fair. And i truly feel she made positive change for the WNBA players now, because they knew Gigi’s goal was to eventually play in the WNBA.”
After letting her daughter know she misses and loves her, Vanessa began to speak about the love of her life and husband Kobe.
“Now for my soulmate. Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court. The greatest of all time, a writer, an Oscar winner and the Black Mamba. But to me he was KobKob, my Boo-Boo, my Bae-Boo, my papi chulo. I was his VeBe, his principessa, his reina, Queen Mama — Mamba. I couldn’t see him as a celebrity nor just an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of my children. He was mine. He was my everything.”
She went on to talk about how the couple was together since she was 17 and a half years old. ” I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant and his protector. He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words.”
She continued, “He was truly the romantic one in our relationship. I looked forward to Valentine’s Day and our anniversaries every year. He planned special anniversary trips and a special traditional gift for every year of our marriage. He even handmade my most treasured gifts. He just thought outside the box and was so thoughtful even while working hard to be the best athlete. He gave to me the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in ‘The Notebook’ movie. When I asked him why he chose the blue dress, he said because it was the scene when Allie comes back to Noah. We had hoped to grow old together like the movie. We really had an amazing love story. We loved each other with our whole beings, two perfectly imperfect people raising a beautiful family and raiding our sweet and amazing girls.
“A couple weeks before they passed, Kobe sent me a sweet text and mentioned how he wanted to spend time together, just the two of us, without our kids, because I am his best friend first. We never got the chance to do it. We were busy taking care of our girls and just doing our regular everyday responsibilities. But I’m thankful I have that recent text. It means so much to me. Kobe wanted us to renew our vows. He wanted Natalia to take over his company and he wanted to travel the world together. We had always talked about how we would be the fun grandparents to our daughters’ children. He would have been the coolest grandpa.
“Kobe was the MVP of girl dads, or MVD. He never left the toilet seat up. He always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are. He taught them how to be brave and how to keep pushing forward when things get tough. When Kobe retired from the NBA, he took over dropping off and picking up our girls from school since I was at home pregnant with Bianka and just recently home nursing Capri.When Kobe was still playing, I used to show up an hour early to be the first in line to pick up Natalia and Gianna from school, and I told him he couldn’t drop the ball once he took over. He was late one time, and we most definitely let him know that I was never late. So he showed up one hour and 20 minutes early after that.”
“He always knew there was room for improvement and wanted to do better. He happily did carpool and enjoyed spending time in the car with our girls. He was a doting father, a father that was hands on and present. He helped me bathe Bianka and Capri almost every night. He would sing them silly songs in the shower and continue making them laugh and smile as he lathered them in lotion and got them ready for bed. He had magic arms and could put Capri to sleep in only a few minutes. He said he had it down to a science, eight times up and down our hallway.
“He loved taking Bianka to Fashion Island and watching her play in the koi pond area and loved taking her to the park. Their most recent visit to the koi pond was the evening before he and Gigi passed. He shared a love of movies and breakdown of films with Natalia. He enjoyed renting out theaters and taking Natalia to watch the newest “Star Wars” movie or “Harry Potter” films. They would have movie marathons and he enjoyed every second of it. He loved the typical tearjerkers, too, and he liked watching “Stepmom,” Steel Magnolias,” and “Little Women.” He had a tender heart.
“Kobe somehow knew where I was at all times, specifically when I was late to his games. He would worry about me if I wasn’t in my seat at the start of each game and would ask security where I was, at the first time out of the first quarter. My smart ass would tell him he was not going to drop 81 points within the first 10 minutes of the game. I think anybody with kids understands that sometimes you can’t make it out the door on time, and eventually he was used to my tardiness and balled out. The fact that he could play on an intense professional level and still be concerned by making sure we made it to the game safely is just another example of how family came first to him.
“He loved being Gianna’s basketball coach. He told me he wished he would have convinced Natalia to play basketball so they could have spent more time together, and he also wanted her to pursue her own passion. He watched Natalia play in a volleyball tournament on her birthday, January 19, and he noticed how she’s a very intelligent player. He was convinced she would have made a great point guard with her vision of the court. And he told me he wanted Bianka and Capri to take up basketball, when they get older, so he could spend just as much time with him as he did with Gigi. Kobe always told Bianka and Capri that they were going to grow up, play basketball and ‘mix they ass up.’ Now they won’t have their daddy and sister here to teach them, and that is truly a loss I do not understand.
“I am so thankful Kobe heard KoKo say, ‘Dada.’ He isn’t going to be here to drop Bianka and Capri off at pre-K or kindergarten, and he isn’t going to be here to tell me to get a grip V when we have to leave the kindergarten classroom, and he isn’t going to be able to walk our girls down the aisle or spin me around on the dance floor, singing ‘PYT’ to me. But I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband and father he was. The kind of man that wanted to teach future generations to be better and keep them from making his own mistakes. He always liked working and doing projects to improve kids’ lives. He taught us all valuable lessons about life and sports through his NBA career, his books, his show, ‘Detail,’ and his ‘Punies’ podcast series. We are so thankful he left those lessons and stories behind for us.
“He was thoughtful and always wrote the best love letters and cards, and Gigi had his wonderful ability to express her feelings into paper and make you feel her love through her words. She was thoughtful like him. They were so easy to love. Everyone naturally gravitated towards them. They were funny, happy, silly, and they loved life. They were so full of joy and adventure. God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nati, BiBi and KoKo, and we’re still the best team.
“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 you both and miss you. Forever and always, Mommy.”
The seven other victims of the helicopter crash include, John Altobelli, 56, his wife, Keri, 46, their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, Sarah Chester, 45, her 13-year-old daughter Payton, Christina Mauser, 38, and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.