In her emotional first public words since the death of her NBA star husband, Kobe, and 13-year-old daughter, Vanessa Bryant remembered her loved ones lost during a Los Angeles memorial service to the victims of last month’s helicopter tragedy.
“God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other,” said Bryant, referring to her husband and the second of their two daughters, Gianna, affectionately known as Gigi.
“He had to bring them home to heaven together.”
Dressed in all black, Bryant spoke first about daughter Gianna, at points sniffling and choking back tears, but moving forward with resolve.
“Gianna Bryant was an amazingly sweet and gentle soul,” she said. “She was one of my very best friends.
“I loved the way she looked up at me while hugging me,” she continued. “It was as if she was soaking me all in.”
She spoke of fond memories of her daughter, every bit “daddy’s girl” in her own promising basketball career.
“Gigi was confident, but not in an arrogant way,” she said. “She loved helping and teaching other people things at school.
“She offered the boys’ basketball coaches to help give the boys’ basketball team some pointers,” said Bryant, drawing a laugh from the crowd packing Staples Center.
But she also spoke, through heartache, of milestones that will never come to pass.
“We will not be able to see Gigi go to high school with [older sister] Natalia,” said Bryant. “I won’t be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day, never get to see my baby walk down the aisle, [or] have a father-daughter dance with her daddy on the dance floor.
“I cannot imagine life without her.”
Bryant then spoke of her “soulmate,” Kobe, speaking to a tender side that many on the hardwood never saw.
“Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court,” she said. But to Vanessa, “He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children. … He was my everything.
“We really had an amazing love story,” said Bryant, who had been with Kobe since he was 21 and she 17. “We loved each other with our whole beings. Two perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family, and raising our sweet and amazing girls.”
In addition to Natalia, 17, and Gianna, the couple shared two younger daughters: Bianka, 3, and Capri, born just last June.
“Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nani, BB and Coco,” she said, using loving nicknames for their daughters. “We are still the best team.
“May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven, until we meet again.”