Kobe Bryant And Daughter Gianna Remembered With Emotional Tributes During Memorial Service. Wife Vanessa Shows Immense Strength

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Yesterday the world officially bid farewell to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, 13. In this photo, Janel Alexander, 55, of Encino, poses next to a mural that features Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil inside Staples Center in Los Angeles before a public memorial for Lakers legend Bryant and his daughter Gianna Monday morning, Feb. 24, 2020. Alexander said she wanted to attend the memorial to support Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, so she could feel “the presence of love around her.” (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)

The world officially bid farewell to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41; his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, 13; and the seven other victims of that fatal helicopter crash on Jan. 26. The emotional memorial service was filled to the brim in “the house that Kobe built.” It was also the first time Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, spoke publicly about the enormously tragic loss of her husband and daughter.  

Some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment converged onto Los Angeles’ STAPLES Center to pay their respects. However, it was the immense strength and grace shown by Vanessa when eulogizing Gigi and Kobe that left the crowd awestruck. After thanking everyone for uplifting their family with love, support and prayers, Kobe’s wife of 20 years gave a deeper glimpse into her family’s private life and how Kobe and Gigi’s loss affected them.

Vanessa said, “My baby girl … Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet, gentle soul. She was Daddy’s girl, but I know she loved her Mama. She would always tell me and show me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends,” Vanessa said, sharing Gigi’s love of baking, Disney movies and helping others.

Former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant attend an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

“Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face like mine. Kobe always said she was me. She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm, she was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine,” Vanessa continued, describing Gigi as their family’s “shepherd” who always made sure everyone was okay.

Vanessa also said in addition to basketball, Gigi was gifted in gymnastics, soccer, softball, dance and was a “rule-follower. “She was the most loving daughter, thoughtful little sister, and silly big sister. … I miss you, all of you, every day. I love you,” Vanessa said.

When she turned her attention to Kobe, Vanessa described him as her soulmate, best friend, and confidante. “I couldn’t see him as a celebrity, nor just an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children. He was mine, he was my everything,” she said.

While she acknowledged that Kobe was famous for his competitiveness and Mamba Mentality, she focused on his softer side as a husband and father.

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“We balanced each other out. He would do anything for me … I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe. He was charismatic, a gentleman, he was loving, adoring and romantic. … We had hoped to grow old together … 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.

She revealed Kobe wanted to renew their vows, have his oldest daughter, Natalia, take over his company and travel the world with her. She also said they aspired to be “the fun grandparents” one day and said Kobe was the MVP or “MVD” of girl dads.

“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,” Vanessa continued.

She ended her emotional eulogies explaining why she thought her husband and daughter died together.

“God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together,” Vanessa tearfully said. She continued her emotional tribute using affectionate nicknames to tell Kobe she’d take care of their other three daughters. “Babe you take care of our Gigi and I got Nani, Bebe, and Coco. We’re still the best team. We love and miss you, Boo Boo and Gigi.”

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NBA legends and current star players alike were in attendance. They included Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Fox, Dwyane Wade, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, and more. Many of them were accompanied by their wives like Cookie Johnson, Gabrielle Union, Ayesha Curry, etc.

In addition to Vanessa’s eulogies, highlights of the program included Beyonce opening the service with the songs “Halo” and “XO,” which she said was one of Kobe’s favorite songs; Alicia Keys playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” which Kobe learned by ear to express his love for Vanessa; moving video tributes and speeches from some of Kobe and Gianna’s closest friends.

They included Shaq, WNBA player Diana Taurasi aka “White Mamba,” his best friend and former agent Rob Pelinka, etc. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who was also a friend of Kobe’s, served as the memorial’s MC. He could barely hold back his tears.

Michael Jordan, who was Kobe’s childhood hero, said Kobe grew to be like a little brother to him.

“What he accomplished as a basketball player, as a businessman and a storyteller, and as a father … In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor,” Jordan said with tears streaming down his face. “Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends, but we were very close friends. Kobe was my dear friend, he was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I, I just wanted to talk about Kobe.”

After laughing and recalling that initially he was annoyed by Kobe’s late-night and early morning calls and texts for advice, Jordan said Kobe inspired him.

“He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be and as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be … I took great pride as I got to know Kobe … that he was just trying to be a better person … We talked about business, we talked about family, we talked about everything,” Jordan said before joking that now because of Kobe he’d have to look at another crying meme for the next few years.

The date of the memorial was symbolic. In an Instagram post, Vanessa said they decided to hold it February 24, 2020 (2-24-20) to commemorate Gigi and Kobe’s numbers, 2 and 24 respectively, and 20, which represented the number of years they were married and the amount of time Kobe spent as a LA Laker.

Kobe’s parents, Pam and Joe Bryant, were also in attendance. However, they did not speak, nor were they acknowledged in anyone’s speeches or photo tributes. However, the camera panned to them several times during the tribute.

Some fans took issue with the lack of acknowledgment, pointing out that despite the Bryant’s complicated relationship with Kobe, he was still their only son. Snoop Dogg, who attended the memorial, acknowledged them, sending his prayers and condolences later in an Instagram post.

“Sending love and. Prayers to momma. And Pappa Bean Bryant … thank u for giving us. Kobe we love y’all and praying for your strength as parents to keep moving on from the. Broadus family,” Snoop wrote.