Gianna, ‘Gigi’ Bryant, up-and-coming basketball player and daughter of legend Kobe Bryant, would’ve turned sixteen years old on Sunday, and her mother Vanessa Bryant and sister Natalia paid tribute on Instagram.
Natalia, 19, posted a sweet photograph of the two girls. In the photo, Natalia playfully smooches her little sister’s cheek while Gigi grins at the camera. Natalia wrote, “happy sweet sixteen my dearest gigi♥️I love you to the moon and back 🌙forever & always.”
Like her father, who spent his historic 20-year career with the LA Lakers, Gianna was a talented athlete — and she dreamed of playing in the WNBA. She was thirteen when she died alongside Kobe and seven others in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020.
Vanessa, 39, shared a touching video made in the style of Kobe Bryant’s award-winning 2017 short, Dear Basketball. The one-minute film, featuring pencil drawings of Gigi on the court, was created with Nike to correspond with the release of their ‘Mambacita Sweet 16’ shoe. The shoe is the first item Nike has come out with in its partnership with the Bryant estate, and profits will go to the Mamba and Mambacita Foundation, which supports young athletes in memory of Kobe and Gianna.
“Dear Gianna,” the video’s narrator begins, “from the first time you imagined winning a WNBA championship, I knew one thing was real: you were special.”
“You came from greatness,” the narration continues. “But it was never about what you inherited. It was about what you gave to others. When someone stands up for gender equality, I see you fighting alongside them. And every time someone plays her hardest, I know that’s you on the court.”
The video ends with the words, “Love you always, Basketball.”
Vanessa also shared a picture of herself and Gigi smiling courtside, writing, “I love you baby. Happy Birthday Mamacita. ❤️😘❤️, Mommy.”
Vanessa has filed a lawsuit against the LAPD for sharing photographs from the site of the crash that killed her husband and daughter. She says a sheriff assured her that the site was secure, but sheriff’s deputies and fire department personnel took pictures and shared them with colleagues, and, in one case, at a bar on the evening of the crash.
In an October deposition, Vanessa said, “No one should ever have to endure this type of pain and fear . . . The pictures getting released, this is not okay.”