UPDATED: 1:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 25, 2021
One year after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, despite emotions that are clearly still raw, the love he shared with his wife, Vanessa, remains strong. That’s apparent by the steady stream of social media tributes Vanessa has paid to her NBA legend husband over the past 12 months, including this one of him and their oldest daughter, Natalia, just last week.
Vanessa’s dedication to Kobe even in death draws attention to their 20-year love story, a romance that dates back to the summer of 1999 when she was recruited to appear in videos for Snoop Dogg’s hip-hop trio Tha Eastsidaz and others, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Back then, Vanessa was a teenager concluding her high school years. Kobe had just entered his 20’s and was coming into his own as a budding NBA star and member of the Los Angeles Lakers. He apparently was looking to launch a rap career aside from being a professional basketball player and began to immerse himself in music industry circles. It was there where he met Vanessa and, according to a former classmate, she began bringing photos of Kobe to school, although some folks were non-believers. Vanessa would receive massive bouquets of roses, while Kobe also picked her up from school in his Mercedes Benz.
They announced their engagement at Vanessa’s 18th birthday party, and shortly after they wed, she masterly transitioned into the role of an NBA wife, attending games and accompanying her husband at events.
Nearly two years after they were married, the couple welcomed their first child, a daughter named Natalia, in January of 2003.
With the highs of their marriage came lows, but Vanessa stood beside Kobe even throughout his 2003 rape allegation case, which was later dismissed in 2004 and settled civilly in 2005.
The following year, Kobe and Vanessa welcomed their daughter Gianna.
The couple preserved through another rough patch in 2013 after Vanessa filed for divorce citing “irreconcilable differences” two years prior.
At that time, she spoke via social media of her and her husband getting on the other side of their marital issues. “We are pleased to announce that we have reconciled,” she ultimately said. “Our divorce action will be dismissed. We are looking forward to our future together.”
That future included two more daughters – Bianka who was born in 2016 and Capri in 2019.
Kobe and their daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash along with seven others on Jan. 26, changing Vanessa and their three daughters’ lives forever.
Vanessa broke her silence on the loss days later.
“We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri,” Vanessa said.
She continued, “There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them.”
Since then, Vanessa has gone on to celebrate Kobe’s birthday — “Kobe Bryant Day” — and had plenty to say with a heartfelt Instagram post on what would have been his 42nd birthday last August.
“Happy birthday. I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain,” she started. “I wish you and Gigi were here to celebrate YOU! I wish I could make you your fav food or a birthday cake with my Gigi.”
She has also sued the helicopter company that she blames for the deaths of Kobe and Gigi.
Through it all, Vanessa has made it a point to share her grief with her followers on social media, further confirming what we all know: she and Kobe have eternal love.
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