Vanessa Bryant was among the thousands who gathered at Staples Center in L.A. Monday to pay tribute to her husband Kobe and daughter Gianna, who were killed with seven others in a January 26 helicopter crash.
It was an emotional memorial, and Vanessa took a deep breath before launching into her speech.
She told the crowd, “Thank you so much for being here. It means so much… I’d like to talk about Kobe and Gigi. I’d like to start with my baby girl...”
She remembered her 13-year-old as an “amazingly sweet and gentle soul” and “one of my best friends.” Vanessa recalled fondly how her daughter was always sure to kiss her good night and good morning, even if Vanessa was asleep.
The grieving mother also remembered how Gianna loved to bake, swim, dance, and do cartwheels.
She said she had her mother’s fire, personality and smile, but that she was “competitive like her daddy.”
“Gigi was confident, but not in an arrogant way… She was very much like her daddy... They were great teachers,” Vanessa said, adding, “She was our shepherd. She was very much in tune with our feelings.”
She went on to look ahead to all the milestones they would miss, saying, “We will not see Gigi go to high school... 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 can’t imagine life without her.”
Vanessa insisted, “Gigi most likely would have become the best player in the WNBA… She would have made a huge difference for women’s basketball. She was motivated to change how people viewed women in sports,” Bryant said.
She added, “She had so much to offer this world… I will miss you every day.”
Vanessa then remembered her “soulmate” Kobe.
“He was my sweet husband and the father of my beautiful children… He was my everything… I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidante, and his protector," Vanessa said. "He was the early bird and I was the night owl. He was fire and I was ice — and vice versa sometimes."
She described him as a romantic who loved anniversaries and Valentine’s Day, revealing he once bought her the character Allie’s blue dress from “The Notebook.” He told her it was because that is the dress she wore when she returned to her boyfriend in the beloved movie.
Kobe and Vanessa planned to renew their vows and hoped to “be the fun grandparents” someday.
Vanessa said Kobe also hoped daughter Natalia would take over his business, and that their younger girls, Bianka and Capri, would pursue basketball so he could spend as much time with them as he did with Gigi. She told the crowd, “I want my girls to remember what kind of man he was.”
A tearful Vanessa ended by saying, “God knew [Kobe and Gianna] couldn’t be on this Earth without each other… Babe, you take care of Gigi… May you both rest in peace.”