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Vanessa Bryant’s Heart-Tugging Tribute to Kobe Bryant: ‘I Always Wanted to Go First’

Vanessa Bryant’s Heart-Tugging Tribute to Kobe Bryant: ‘I Always Wanted to Go First’

On Sunday, Vanessa Bryant honored her late husband Kobe Bryant on what would have been his 42nd birthday.

Calling Kobe “my baby” and referencing their daughter Gianna, Vanessa wrote on Instagram, “Happy birthday. I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain. I wish you and Gigi were here to celebrate YOU! I wish I could make you your fav food or a birthday cake with my Gigi. I miss your big hugs, your kisses, your smile, your loud ass deep laugh.”

“I miss teasing you, making you laugh and bursting your bubble. I miss you sitting on my lap like my big baby that you are. I think about your tenderness and patience all the time. I think about everything you would do in situations to help me deal with everything thrown my way,” Vanessa added. “Our lives feel so empty without you and Gigi. I've been completely broken inside. As much as I want to cry, I put a smile on my face to make our daughters days shine a little brighter. I'm not the strong one, they are. They're strong and resilient. I'm sure you're proud of them. They put a smile on my face everyday.”

Vanessa opened up about her struggles to cope with the deaths of Kobe and Gianna, who perished in a helicopter crash in January. She admitted, “I wish I could wake up from this horrible nightmare. I wish I could surprise our girls and welcome you and Gigi home to us. I'm mad I didn't go first. I always wanted to go first so that I selfishly didn't have to feel this heartache. You were supposed to miss me. Gigi was supposed to be here with her sisters. It should've been me.”

Kobe and Vanessa’s oldest daughter Natalia, 17, also paid tribute to her dad with a precious photo. Reminiscing about their time together, she wrote, “Happy Bithday Dad❤️ I miss your smile, laugh and big bear hugs. Happy Birthday to the best movie buddy I could have ever asked for. I will always remember our late night drives to the movie theater with the windows rolled down and listening to our favorite songs. I love you forever and always. Always, Slim.”

Kobe’s older sister Sharia also shared a heartbreaking message on his birthday. Along with posting a childhood photo of him, she wrote, “I’ve typed and deleted this so many times. There are simply no words to describe how I’m feeling today. So many people around the world miss “The Black Mamba”, I miss my little brother. The one who listened without judgement and loved me unconditionally. There are no words to express how much I miss you. Happy Birthday Bean❤️ I love you! 👼🏽🐍🐐.”

Many big names also remembered Kobe, including Dwyane Wade, Lisa Leslie, Derek Fisher and LeBron James.

In a video for the Players’ Tribune, Wade shared, “We knew coming into the game that he was the one. I grew up with [Michael] Jordan, Jordan is my favorite player of all time, but when I got in the game, Kobe was that bar for all of us. We knew he was the one and we were trying to make him proud of us and we never probably spoke it, said to the media or said it to him, but deep inside, most guys were.”

Wade also revealed that he lives near where the crash happened and can see the tragic site from his home.

LeBron shared a throwback video from Kobe’s 30th birthday.

Kobe's former teammate Paul Gasol wrote on Instagram, "With tears in my eyes today... I just wish so badly that you were here celebrating your bday with your girls and family. I miss you and Gigi so much brother. I will always be thankful for how much you have impacted my life in so many different ways. #Hermano #Familia #42 🎂."

Leading up to Kobe's birthday, Gasol and his wife Catherine McDonnell have been spending time with Vanessa and her three daughters.

The Lakers plan to honor Kobe during Monday’s game against the Portland Trailblazers by wearing special-edition jerseys, which were personally designed by him.