During a televised memorial on Monday, Vanessa Bryant delivered a heartrending speech
She’s a wife who just lost her “soulmate” and a mother who is having to say goodbye to her daughter far too soon. But Vanessa Bryant amazingly found the strength of spirit on Monday to make a profoundly moving speech in honor of her late husband, NBA great Kobe Bryant, and the couple’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Vanessa took the stage at Staples Center in Los Angeles during the televised “Celebration of Life” memorial devoted to the memories of Kobe and Gianna, or “Gigi” as she was affectionately known. After a touching introduction by family friend Jimmy Kimmel, Vanessa bravely stepped up to the podium to pay tribute to her husband and daughter.
“Thank you all so much for being here; it means so much to us. Love you too,” she told the crowd of 20,000. “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 up-lifting. Thank you all so much for all your prayers. I’d like to talk about both Kobe and Gigi, but I’ll start with my baby girl first.”
Vanessa — who brought surviving daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri, with her — painted a picture for mourners of the kind of person Gigi was. “My baby girl,” she said, pausing to regain her composure.
“Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was always very thoughtful and always kissed me good night and kissed me good morning. There were a few occasions where I was absolutely tired from being up with Bianka and Capri, and I thought she had left to school without saying goodbye. I text and say, ‘No kiss?’ And Gianna would reply with, ‘Mama, I kissed you. You were asleep and I didn’t want to wake you.'”
The grieving mother went on to say that although Gianna was a “daddy’s girl,” she “loved her mama” and was “one of my very best friends.” Gigi was a girl who loved to put a smile on everyone’s face and who enjoyed baking, explained her mom. Last year, she made a birthday cake with blue agate crystals for Kobe’s birthday. She liked to bake chocolate chip cookies and binge-watch Cupcake Wars with Vanessa.
And as many who watched the bond between Kobe and Gigi from the outside know, she was competitive like her father. However, shared Vanessa, the 13-year-old was a lot like her mama, too. “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, and she was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine,” said Vanessa.
Still, Gigi truly was her father’s child. “Kobe and Gianna naturally gravitated towards each other. She had Kobe’s ability to listen to a song and have all the lyrics memorized after listening to the song a couple of times; it was their secret talent. She was an incredible athlete,” Vanessa said, adding, “Gigi was confident but not arrogant… she was very much like her daddy and they both liked helping people learn new things and master them. They were great teachers.”
Then there were the emotionally gutting reminders that Gigi was, in many ways, just a regular teen with her whole life ahead of her. She loved to “swim, dance, do cartwheels and do jumps into our swimming pool.” And, like every other teen girl, she “loved her TikTok dances.”
There were also the ways she stood out — those things that made her so special and charismatic. According to Vanessa, Gigi was the “shepherd” of the family who always made sure everyone was okay and that they spent quality time together. She was energetic, but also a rule-follower. She was good with her little sisters and would have made an “amazing mommy” one day.
On the subject of her daughter’s future, Vanessa lamented all the things they won’t get to do: watch Gigi walk into high school for the first time, teach her to drive a car, see her get married, hold her little girl’s future children, or see how she would have followed in her father’s footsteps. “Gigi would most likely have become the best player in the WNBA. She would’ve made a huge difference for women’s basketball,” said Vanessa.
Understandably, Vanessa concluded her remarks about her daughter by saying, “I miss you, all of you, every day.”
She then turned her thoughts to her partner of more than two decades. “Now for my soulmate. Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court. The greatest of all time, a writer, an Oscar winner and the Black Mamba. But to me, he was KobKob, my Boo-Boo, my Bae-Boo, my papi chulo,” she began, going on to tell the love story that started when she was 17-and-a-half.
“I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant, and his protector,” she explained. “He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. He was the early bird and I was the night owl, I was fire and he was ice, and vice versa at times. 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.”
One anniversary, Vanessa revealed, Kobe even bought her the actual notebook and blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in The Notebook. “We had hoped to grow old together like the movie,” she said.
“We really had an amazing love story. We loved each other with our whole beings, two perfectly imperfect people raising a beautiful family and our sweet and amazing girls.”
Kobe had even recently expressed his vision for what growing old together might look like for them. “A couple weeks before they passed, Kobe sent me a sweet text and mentioned how he wanted to spend time together, just the two of us, without our kids, because I am his best friend first. We never got the chance to do it,” Vanessa said. But she’s thankful for the text, as well as the conversations the two had shared about traveling the world and getting to meet their family’s future generations. “We talked about how we would be the fun grandparents to our daughters’ children. He would have been the coolest grandpa.”
According to Vanessa, Kobe was a carpool dad. He was the dad who sang silly songs as he gave his little girls baths. He created a special ritual to help baby Capri fall asleep at night, and he took Bianka to Fashion Island to play by the koi pond. He and Natalia bonded over watching movies together, sometimes renting out theaters to watch the newest installment of major franchises like Star Wars.
It’s easy to see why Kobe and Gigi hold such a special place in Vanessa’s heart. “They were so easy to love. Everybody naturally gravitated towards 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 have them together,” she said, ending her speech with, “Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nati, BiBi, and Coco, and we’re still the best team.”
See Vanessa’s entire speech below: