Vanessa Bryant bravely took the stage to eulogize her late husband and daughter, Kobe and Gianna Bryant, during the celebration of life for the Lakers icon on Monday.
“Thank you all so much for being here, it means so much to us,” Vanessa, 37, began her speech at Staples Center 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.”
Joined by her girls — Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri — the matriarch was surrounded by their family and friends, along with her late husband’s former basketball colleagues and teammates.
Vanessa started by honoring Gianna, who was 13 when she was killed in the helicopter crash alongside her father last month.
“My baby girl,” she said, taking a moment to compose herself. “Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was always thoughtful.”
Continued Vanessa, “She was daddy’s girl but I know she loved her mamma. She was one of my very best friends.”
Vanessa noted that the budding athlete “was very competitive like her daddy,” but that “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. “
Vanessa noted that her daughter “loved family traditions” and “looked out for everyone.”
“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.”
Concluded Vanessa, “I miss you, all of you, every day.”
“Now for my soulmate,” said Vanessa before transitioning to words of remembrance about her husband. “He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words.”
Continued the grieving wife, “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 longtime husband, who she married in 2001.
Vanessa also paid tribute to Kobe’s much-documented love of fatherhood, saying, “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.”
She added, “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.”
Concluding her emotional speech, Vanessa said of her husband and daughter, “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 heaven together,” said Vanessa, before telling her late husband, “Babe, you take care of our Gigi. … we’re still the best team.”
The memorial, of which the date honors Gianna’s No. 2 jersey at the Mamba Sports Academy, and Kobe’s No. 24 in the latter half of Lakers career, also honored victims John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Kobe and Gianna were laid to rest earlier this month. The date of disposition on death certificates was listed as February 7 at Pacific View Memorial Park and Mortuary in Corona Del Mar, California. (People)
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