- At a public memorial service at the Staples Centre on Monday, Vanessa Bryant gave thousands of people glimpses of Kobe Bryant when he wasn’t on the basketball court.
- The longtime Los Angeles Laker died on January 26 in a helicopter crash that also killed his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers.
- “He would do anything for me,” Vanessa Bryant said of her late husband, who was also a “doting” and “hands-on” father.
- “May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven. Until we meet again, we love you both and miss you, forever and always, mummy,” she said to Kobe and Gigi at the conclusion of her speech.
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In an emotional speech that had more than a few guests crying, Vanessa Bryant said on Monday that God knew her husband and daughter “couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to Heaven together.”
Kobe and Gianna “Gigi” Bryant were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas, California, hills on January 26. Nearly 20,000 people were expected to attend the Celebration of Life memorial service that was held in honour of all the victims at the Staples Centre, the home to the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom the NBA icon spent his entire career.
In her eulogy, Vanessa Bryant shared with people an intimate look into the man they know and revere as a basketball legend.
“I couldn’t see him as a celebrity nor just an incredible basketball player,” she said. “He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children. He was mine. He was my everything.”
‘He would do anything for me’
The pair had been together for nearly 20 years. Vanessa Bryant, now 37, was 17 when they met and Kobe was 21.
“I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidante, and his protector,” she said. “He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words … He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe.”
Vanessa Bryant also said Kobe was the “romantic one” in their marriage who looked forward to and made special plans for Valentine’s Day and their anniversary.
“He gave me the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in ‘The Notebook’ movie,” she said, adding that he picked it because that’s what Allie, McAdams’ character in the movie, was wearing when she reunited with Noah in the film.
“We had hoped to grow old together like the movie,” Vanessa Bryant said. “We really had an amazing love story. We loved each other with our whole beings. Two perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family and raising our sweet and amazing girls.”
‘MVP of girl dads’
“Kobe was the MVP of girl dads – or MVD,” Bryant added. “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.”
She also shared funny stories about their time together, all of which highlighted his love for his family and children.
After retiring from the NBA in 2018, Kobe Bryant opted to pick up and drop off their children from school.
“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.”
After that, he was at his girls’ school an hour and 20 minutes before it let out, Vanessa Bryant said of Kobe’s “doting,” “hands-on,” and “present” way of being a father.
Never too busy for his family
He was similarly “tender” toward her as well.
“Kobe somehow knew where I was at all times, specifically when I was late to his games,” Vanessa Bryant said. “He would worry about me if I wasn’t in my seat at the start of each game. He would ask security where I was at the first time out of the first quarter. And my smart a– would tell him that he wasn’t going to drop 81 points within the first 10 minutes of the game.”
Eventually he realised that as a parent, it’s not always possible to stick to a schedule, she said, but “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 was just another example of how family came first to him.”
One of the greatest joys of Kobe Bryant’s life was being able to coach Gigi’s basketball team.
“She was thoughtful like him,” Vanessa Bryant said. “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.”
Kobe Bryant had hoped their daughters Bianca and Capri would follow in his footsteps so he could spend extra time with them, Vanessa Bryant said.
“Now they won’t have their daddy and sister here to teach them, and that is truly a loss I do not understand. But I’m so thankful Kobe heard Coco say ‘dada,'” she said.
‘Until we meet again’
His tragic death means their family will miss out on all the memories that they had yet to create together, from small moments like his youngest children starting kindergarten to him walking each of the four girls down the aisle one day.
“But I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband, and father he was” and the effort he put into empowering the youth, she said.
Vanessa Bryant spoke directly to her husband and asked him to enjoy his time with their daughter.
“Babe, you take care of our Gigi, and I got Nani, BB, and Coco,” she said, her voice breaking. “We are still the best team. We love and miss you, booboo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven. Until we meet again, we love you both and miss you, forever and always, mummy.”
- Read more:
- ‘She was so full of life’: Vanessa Bryant laments not being able to watch her daughter grow up at the memorial for Gianna and Kobe
- ‘God I wish they were here’: Vanessa Bryant described her raw grief at losing Kobe and Gianna, alongside a video of them playing basketball
- Vanessa Bryant posted a heartbreaking tribute to Kobe and Gianna: ‘There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now’
- Vanessa Bryant announced a fund to direct donations to other families of victims of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna