The memorial service, held on February 24 at the Staples Centre, was an emotional event, where thousands turned up to pay their last respects to the basketball legend and his daughter.
A month has passed since basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others lost their lives in the tragic helicopter crash. But the people and fans they left behind are still mourning their sudden deaths.
On February 24, 2020, a proper memorial was held for the star athlete and those who passed away in the crash, according to People. The number in itself is special as 2 and 24 were the numbers of Bryant's and Gianna's jerseys. Held at Staples Center, a place where the NBA star spent the majority of his career with the Lakers, Vanessa took to the stage to pay a touching tribute to her husband and daughter.
“Thank you all so much for being here, it means so much to us,” the devastated widow, 37, began her speech after an introduction from Jimmy Kimmel. “I’d like to thank everyone for coming today. The outpouring of love and support that my family has felt from around the world has been so uplifting.” She was surrounded by her daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri as well as family, friends and her husband's former basketball colleagues and teammates.
She began her tribute by honoring her 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. “My baby girl,” she said, after taking a few moments to pull herself together. “Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was always thoughtful. She knew how important morning and evening kisses meant to me and she was so thoughtful to remember to kiss me every day. She was daddy’s girl but I know she loved her mamma. She was one of my very best friends." The heartbroken mother couldn't keep herself from tearing up as she bravely continued.
She also spoke about how her daughter took after her father's competitiveness but “Kobe always said she was me — she had my fire, my personality and sarcasm, but she was tender and loving on the inside.”
“She had the best laugh. It was infectious, it was pure and genuine. Kobe and Gianna naturally gravitated toward each other. We will not be able to see Gianna go to highschool with Natalia … we didn’t get the chance to teach her how to drive a car,” said Vanessa. “I won’t be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I’ll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy … or have babies of her own.” Vanessa concluded her tribute to Gianna by saying, “I miss you, all of you, every day.”
Then it was time to honor her beloved partner. “Now for my soulmate,” she started. “He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. I have no idea how I deserved a man who loved or wanted me more than Kobe.” “We loved each other with our whole beings, two perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family and raising our sweet and amazing girls,” she said of her husband of 19 years. She recalled how he was as a father as well.
“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. He had a tender heart. But I want my daughters to know the amazing person, husband and father he was,” said Vanessa. “The kind of man who wanted to teach the future generations to be better… he taught us all valuable lessons about life and sports… we’re so thankful he left those lessons and stories behind for us.”
As she wrapped up her speech, she said, “They were so easy to love. Everyone naturally gravitated toward 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." She also told her late husband, “Babe, you take care of our Gigi. And I got Nani, B.B. and Koko. We’re still the best team. 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.”
No one was left without tears in their eyes as they witnessed this woman, who had lost both her husband and her daughter in one fell swoop, share her real grief. You can watch her speech in the video below.
Grief is never easy and having to share it with such a large audience takes an immense amount of guts. But Vanessa did it because she knew how much her husband and daughter meant to so many people. May she and her children find the strength to get through it. R.I.P. Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan.