At “The Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant” — a televised public memorial for NBA great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, both of whom perished in a Jan. 27 helicopter crash — Vanessa Bryant tearfully paid tribute to her husband and their second-eldest child.
At the well-attended gathering at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which aired live on ESPN, CBS Sports and other outlets, Vanessa Bryant remembered Kobe as “a fierce competitor on the basketball court, the Greatest of All Time, a writer, an Oscar winner [as exec producer of the animated short Dear Basketball] and the Black Mamba.” Yet whereas others saw Kobe for his celebrity status, to Vanessa “he was my sweet husband, and the beautiful father of our children. He was mine, he was my everything.” Having first met when Vanessa was age 17-1/2, she said she was and became his “girlfriend, first love, wife, best friend, confidante and protector.”
Of losing Gianna at such a young age, and so tragically, Vanessa remarked, “We will not be able to see Gigi go to high school… we won’t get the 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 [or see her] have babies of her own.
“Gigi would most likely have become the best player in the WNBA,” Vanessa said of the teenage hoops star. “She would have made a huge difference for women’s basketball,” not just as a player by an advocate for gender equality.
Vanessa Bryant went on to list how Kobe and Gianna were similar — “They were funny, happy, silly, and they loved life,” she said. And as such, she posited, “God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to Heaven together.”
Jimmy Kimmel led the proceedings at “The Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant,” which also featured musical performances by Beyonce (with “XO” and “Halo”) and Alicia Keys (playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” a favorite of the Bryants’).
Watch clips of Vanessa Bryan’s public eulogy below:
Also during the day of tributes, Shaquille O’Neal shared a NSFW anecdote about Kobe’s on-point retort to “There is No I in Team,” while fellow NBA legend Michael Jordan brought some needed levity by remarking on how his tear-streaked face will re-launch the MJ Crying meme: