Vanessa Bryant was the "Queen Mamba" to Kobe's "Black Mamba," and they were married for nearly 20 years. When Kobe and the couple's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, fans, athletes, and journalists shared their memories of Kobe as a devoted husband and father. He and Vanessa met when she was in high school and he was a young NBA star. The couple weathered infidelity and almost got divorced but ultimately stayed together until the end. In a statement Wednesday, Vanessa said she was "devastated" by the loss of her husband and daughter, and that "there aren't enough words to describe our pain right now."
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The basketball icon Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on January 26. In the days after the crash, fans and athletes remembered not only Kobe's incredible legacy as a basketball player but also his reputation as a loving family man who was devoted to his wife, Vanessa, and their four daughters. In a statement posted to Instagram on the third day since the crash, Vanessa wrote a pained tribute to Kobe and Gianna, describing them as "beautiful blessings taken from us too soon." Vanessa and Kobe Bryant were married for 19 years before the basketball star's sudden death. The couple met when Vanessa was a senior in high school. Her classmates were stunned when she caught the eye of then-20-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Though many know the Black Mamba as one of the greatest players of all time, not as many know the woman who was by his side since the first years of his career. This is how the Bryants weathered drama on and off the court while growing their family and cementing themselves as one of the most well-known couples in basketball.SEE ALSO: 10 photos show how Kobe Bryant loved being a dad to girls and urged his 'princesses' to play sports, including basketball DON'T MISS: This timeline shows everything we know — and what we don't — about the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 7 other people Vanessa Urbieta Cornejo Laine was born on May 5, 1982, in Los Angeles.
Her parents were protective and didn't let her date much, the Los Angeles Times reported. During the summer before her senior year of high school in 1999, Vanessa was spotted at a concert and asked to appear in a music video.
Vanessa was called to appear in a music video alongside rappers Snoop Dogg and Tha Eastsidaz for their song "G'd Up" and wore a metallic bikini for her debut as a music-video model. Shortly after the shoot, the 17-year-old was called to appear in another music video. That's when she met 20-year-old Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.
The basketball phenom later wrote on Instagram that he asked Vanessa for her number on November 28, 1999, and the pair went to Disneyland on their first date. Bodyguards trailed them at the park. Vanessa soon became widely known as Kobe's other half, and their relationship caused a stir while she was attending her senior year at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California.
"She'd bring pictures of Kobe to school, and we'd all be like 'Omygod!' " Vanessa's former classmate Monica Squadrilli told the Los Angeles Times. "I remember there was one of him playing with her puppies, and she would only let us look at it, we couldn't touch it." Other classmates told the LA Times they remembered Kobe sending roses to the school office and picking her up from class in his Mercedes. Vanessa became a fixture at Kobe's side in appearances at games and on red carpets before the Lakers star proposed at her 18th birthday party six months after they met.
The couple famously did not sign a prenuptial agreement. Vanessa's stepfather, Stephen Laine, later told the Los Angeles Times that "she just came home one day and said something to the effect that Kobe didn't want a prenup — that he loved her too much." The young couple got married in April 2001, but the wedding was at the center of family drama.
Fewer than two years after they first met, the couple got married at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Southern California's Dana Point. The ceremony was intimate and had only about 12 attendants, partially because neither Kobe's parents nor his sisters went because they disapproved of him getting married so young and to someone who was not African American, the LA Times reported. Kobe later told the Orlando Sentinel that his relationship with Vanessa had sparked a large rift between him and his father. His father, Joe, denied holding any hostility toward his daughter-in-law, saying they were "cool." He acknowledged a rift with his son but said he respected Kobe's life. "It's his life, we've got nothing to do with it," he told the paper. "We've done our job." As Kobe's star continued to rise, Vanessa was by his side. The couple thrilled fans when they announced in September 2002 that they were expecting a daughter.
When they went out in public, bodyguards went too. The couple's first child, Natalia Diamante Bryant, was born on January 19, 2003.
Her middle name was a nod to Vanessa's love of diamonds, according to the LA Times. Later that year, a 19-year-old woman accused Kobe of sexually assaulting her on a June 2003 trip to Denver.
In a statement released after the allegation surfaced, Vanessa stood by Kobe and said she trusted he would make amends in their marriage. "I know that my husband has made a mistake, the mistake of adultery," she said in the statement. "He and I will have to deal with that within our marriage, and we will do so. He is not a criminal." The Lakers guard held a July 2003 press conference in the Staples Center, where he acknowledged his infidelity but said the sexual encounter was consensual. As he spoke, Vanessa was at his side holding his hand. "I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery," he said. "I love my wife with all my heart. She's my backbone." The accuser didn't testify, and prosecutors dropped the case in September 2004. The two parties settled a civil suit out of court for an undisclosed amount on March 2, 2005. The couple's appearance during the scandal became an iconic image, even sparking a mocking nod from "Saturday Night Live."
Maya Rudolph played Vanessa. In the months after the scandal, all eyes were on Vanessa's hand. An opulent ring was rumored to be Kobe's penance.
It was initially rumored that the couple was headed for divorce after the scandal, but a $4 million 8-carat purple diamond ring was rumored to be a token of apology from the basketball star to his wife. The star also showed off a fresh tattoo he got to honor her.
It included her name and angel wings on his right bicep. Kobe later said in a 2015 documentary that it was around this time Vanessa had a miscarriage, which he blamed on himself.
Kobe said in the 2015 Showtime documentary "Muse" that Vanessa had a miscarriage while expecting the couple's second child. He said he blamed himself and had wondered if the stress she experienced during his cheating scandal and sexual-assault charge led to the miscarriage. "It's something I have a real hard time dealing with that because I felt like it was just my fault," Kobe said in the documentary. "The reality is it happened because of me. That's something I have to deal with. Something I gotta carry forever." Three years after the birth of their first child, Gianna Bryant was born on May 1, 2006.
"The arrival of our daughter early this morning is an incredible blessing for me and my family," Kobe said in a statement. "We are all full of beautiful emotions after what has been such an incredible day." As Kobe continued to dominate the court, the couple turned to philanthropic efforts to give back to Los Angeles.
In 2007, the couple expanded their philanthropic reach when they established the Vivo Foundation, which would later become known as the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation. The organization's mission statement says it is dedicated to helping children and families in need with financial and educational resources and "encouraging young people to stay active through sports." The Bryants would later double their efforts in 2011 by founding a charitable organization that sought to fight homelessness and support homeless youth in Los Angeles. In addition to their groups, the Bryants supported various other charities, including Stand Up to Cancer and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The couple appeared to be on the rocks again in December 2011, when after 10 years together, Vanessa filed for divorce in Orange County Superior Court.
But after the filing, which cited "irreconcilable differences," rumors swirled for months that the couple wouldn't go through with it. In January 2013, the couple posted on social media to make their reconciliation official, the LA Times reported. "We are looking forward to our future together," Vanessa said on Instagram. And Kobe wrote on Facebook that "when the show ends and the music stops, the journey is made beautiful by having that someone to share it with." After their reconciliation, Vanessa and the couple's daughters were a fixture in the audience at Kobe's games.
Sitting courtside was one of the many perks the family had access to when Kobe was the highest-paid player in the NBA. The license plate on Vanessa's Mercedes-Benz said "ICE QN," according to the LA Times. In 2016, Kobe and Vanessa welcomed their third daughter, Bianka Bryant, shortly before the basketball star announced his retirement.
Three years later, the couple welcomed their fourth daughter in 2019, Capri Kobe Bryant. Vanessa is famously a private person and rarely grants interviews.
She did release a statement after her husband's retirement: "I'm so excited to see what God has in store for us as a family now that one chapter is closing and new ones are opening." Vanessa and her daughters were a focal point of Kobe's growing image as a family man as the retired player focused on working with charities and women's sports.
The new chapter of Kobe's career expanded on the family's existing efforts to encourage young athletes, and the father of four initially pulled away from basketball but became more involved in it as his daughter Gianna showed a flourishing interest in the sport. Kobe coached his daughter's team, the Mambas, and established the Mamba Sports Academy, which hosts a wide variety of athletes for holistic training, practices, and tournaments alongside NBA and WNBA players. The Bryant family was thrust into the spotlight again when Kobe and 13-year-old Gianna were killed in a shocking helicopter crash on January 26.
Kobe and Gianna were among the nine victims who were traveling to the Thousand Oaks, California, Mamba training facility when their helicopter crashed. Fans, athletes, and sports journalists mourned the losses of one of basketball's greatest icons and one of its most promising future athletes. The singer Jessica Simpson shared an Instagram post after the accident that included a photo of the area where the helicopter crashed and a touching caption that paid tribute to Vanessa and Kobe's relationship. "My heart is completely broken for all the families and loved ones left behind trying to make sense of things in this tragic moment," Simpson wrote. "Vanessa, you are the woman and wife that championed your husband to greatness." On Wednesday, Vanessa changed her Instagram profile picture to a photo of Kobe and Gianna hugging and smiling.
It was her first public social-media activity since their deaths on Sunday. A few hours later, Vanessa posted a tribute to Gianna and Kobe, from herself and their three surviving daughters. Instagram Embed: //instagram.com/p/B77K8XWDY7O/embed Width: 540px Vanessa said that she and her family were "devastated" by the sudden loss of Kobe and Gianna. She described them as "our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon." Vanessa vowed they would continue despite their pain. She said: "But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way." As part of the tribute, she announced a fund to support the families of the other seven people killed in the helicopter crash.
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'He was my everything': Vanessa Bryant said she and Kobe had 'hoped to grow old together' in a tearful eulogy to her late husband
Speaking at a public memorial at Staples Center on Monday, a grieving Vanessa Bryant gave thousands...Speaking at a public memorial at Staples Center on Monday, a grieving Vanessa Bryant gave thousands of people glimpses of Kobe Bryant when he wasn't on the basketball court. The longtime Los Angeles Laker died on January 26 in a helicopter crash that killed his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, along with seven other passengers. "He would do anything for me," Vanessa Bryant said of her late husband, who was also a "doting" and "hands-on" father. "May you both rest in peace and have fun in Heaven. Until we meet again. We love you both, and miss you. Forever and always, Mommy," she said to Kobe and Gigi at the conclusion of her speech. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. In an emotional speech that had more than a few guests crying, Vanessa Bryant said on Monday that God knew her husband and daughter "couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to Heaven together." Kobe and Gianna Bryant were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas hills on January 26. Nearly 20,000 people were expected to attend the Celebration of Life that was held in memory of all the victims at the Staples Center, home to the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom the NBA icon spent his entire career. In her eulogy, Vanessa Bryant shared with people an intimate look into the man they know and revere as a basketball legend. "I couldn't see him as a celebrity nor just an incredible basketball player," she said. "He was my sweet husband, and the beautiful father of our children. He was mine. He was my everything." 'He would do anything for me' The pair had been together for nearly 20 years. Vanessa Bryant, now 37, was 17 when they met and Kobe Bryant, 21. "I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant, and his protector," she said. "He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words ... He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe." Vanessa Bryant also credited Kobe Bryant, her "soulmate," as the "romantic one" in their marriage, who looked forward to and made special plans for Valentine's Day and their anniversary. "He gave me the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in 'The Notebook' movie," she recalled, adding that he picked it because that's what Allie was wearing when she reunited with Noah. "We had hoped to grow old together like the movie," Vanessa Bryant said. "We really had an amazing love story. We loved each other with our whole beings. Two perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family, and raising our sweet and amazing girls." 'MVP of girl dads' "Kobe was the MVP of girl dads — or MVD," Bryant continued. "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 and how to keep pushing forward when things get tough." She also shared funny stories about their time together, all of which highlighted his love for his family and children. After retiring from the NBA in 2018, Kobe Bryant opted to pick up and drop off their children from school. "When Kobe was still playing, I used to show up an hour early to be the first in line to pick up Natalia and Gianna from school, and I told him he couldn't drop the ball once he took over. He was late — one time — and we most definitely let him know that I was never late." After that he was at his girls' school an hour and 20 minutes before school let out, Vanessa Bryant said of Kobe Bryant's "doting," "hands-on" and "present" way of being a father. Never too busy for his family He was similarly "tender" toward her as well. "Kobe somehow knew where I was at all times, specifically when I was late to his games," Vanessa Bryant remembered. "He would worry about me if I wasn't in my seat at the start of each game. He would ask security where I was at the first time out of the first quarter. And my smart a-- would tell him that he wasn't going to drop 81 points within the first 10 minutes of the game." Eventually he realized that as a parent it's not always possible to stick to a schedule, she said, but "the fact that he could play on an intense professional level and still be concerned by making sure we made it to the game safely was just another example of how family came first to him. One of the greatest joys of Kobe Bryant's life was being able to coach Gigi's basketball team. "She was thoughtful like him," Vanessa Bryant shared. "They were so easy to love. Everyone naturally gravitated towards them. They were funny, happy, silly, and they loved life. They were so full of joy and adventure." Kobe had hoped Bianca and Capri would follow in his footsteps so he could spend extra time with them, Vanessa Bryant said. But that wasn't to be. "Now they won't have their daddy and sister here to teach them, and that is truly a loss I do not understand. But I'm so thankful Kobe heard Coco say 'Dada,'" she said. 'Until we meet again' His tragic death means their family will miss out on all the memories that had yet to create together, from small moments like his youngest children starting kindergarten to being able to walk all four girls down the aisle one day. "But I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband, and father he was" and the effort he put into empowering the youth, she said. In a voice that broke, Vanessa Bryant spoke directly to her husband and asked him to enjoy his time with their daughter. "Babe, you take care of our Gigi, and I got Nani, BB, and Coco," she said, her voice breaking. "We are still the best team. We love and miss you, booboo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in Heaven. Until we meet again. We love you both, and miss you. Forever and always, Mommy." Read more: 'She was so full of life': Vanessa Bryant laments not being able to watch her daughter grow up at the memorial for Gianna and Kobe 'God I wish they were here': Vanessa Bryant described her raw grief at losing Kobe and Gianna, alongside a video of them playing basketball Vanessa Bryant posted a heartbreaking tribute to Kobe and Gianna: 'There aren't enough words to describe our pain right now' Vanessa Bryant announced a fund to direct donations to other families of victims of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Most maps of Louisiana aren't entirely right. Here's what the state really looks like.
An official Kobe Bryant memorial looks likely on February 24 at the Staples Center, where he once dominated the court for the LA Lakers
A memorial will be held on February 24 to commemorate Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven...A memorial will be held on February 24 to commemorate Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others who died in a helicopter crash, the Los Angeles Times and CNN reported. According to CNN the date 2/24 has special significance – 24 was Bryant's jersey number and 2 was his daughter Gianna's. The event will have a tight timeframe because a a basketball game between the LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies is scheduled right after, the Times said. The Staples Center has already become an unofficial focus of mourning for Bryant since he, Gianna, and seven others were killed on January 26. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. A public memorial in honor of Kobe Bryant is due to be held at his old stomping ground of the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, according to the LA Times. The event is being planned for Monday February 24, according to two unnamed sources who spoke to the Times, as well as sources who spoke to CNN. It has not been officially announced. It will also honor Bryant's daughter Gianna, and the seven others who died in the same helicopter crash in Los Angeles County in late January. The Times's sources said the date was set after talks with Bryant's widow Vanessa, the Staples Center, and The Lakers organization. A Lakers spokesperson has no comment when contacted by Business Insider. The bodies of all nine victims from the January 26 crash were returned to their families this week by medical examiners in Los Angeles. According to the LA Times, the Staples Center memorial will be relatively brief, as it needs to finish in time for a scheduled game between the LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies, which starts at 7:30 p.m. local time. CNN noted that the date 2/24 could be symbolic: Bryant wore the number 24 jersey for the latter part of his career, and Gianna played in number 2 in youth basketball games. The Staples Center has already become a focus for memorials to Bryant. Fans made their own memorial outside the day after he died, coating the ground outside with flowers, jerseys and other tributes. A previously planned game between the LA Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers also became a Bryant tribute, with celebrity performances, a speech from LeBron James, and two empty courtside seats for Bryant and Gianna. Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told the local news channel ABC7 that Bryant should have some kind of public memorial in the city where he spent 20 years as a stand-out player with the Lakers. "I think one message that I would say is this is not just about a man who was a basketball player, this is about a father, this is about a leader, this is about a filmmaker, this is about an artist, this is about somebody who was so much more than just how he was on the court," Garcetti later told the LA Times. The other victims of the crash were John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, and Ara Zobayan, the pilot. Read more: Kobe Bryant's body has been returned to his family, who can now organize a funeral for him and Gianna LeBron James gave a loving eulogy to his 'brother' Kobe Bryant before the Lakers first game since tragic helicopter accident Kobe Bryant, 41, dies in helicopter crash in Calabasas, California Lakers fans paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant by leaving more than 1,300 basketballs outside the Staples Center Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Apple forever changed the biggest tech event of the year by not showing up
The late NBA star Kobe Bryant reportedly had a pact with his wife Vanessa that they...The late NBA star Kobe Bryant reportedly had a pact with his wife Vanessa that they would never ride in a helicopter together. Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, as well as seven other passengers, were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday morning. Bryant said in a podcast in 2018 that he began traveling in helicopters so he would have more time to spend with his daughters instead of sitting in LA traffic. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The late NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa had a pact that they would never ride in a helicopter together, a source told People magazine. Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, as well as seven other passengers, were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday morning. "He and Vanessa had a deal that they would never fly on a helicopter together," a source told People. The source also added that Bryant would only ride in helicopters piloted by Ara Zobayan, who was among the seven others killed in the crash. It was not immediately made clear why Bryant made the pact with his wife. Bryant and Gianna are survived by his wife and his three daughters — Natalia, 17; Bianka, 3; and Capri, who was born in June of last year. Bryant said in a 2018 podcast for Barstool Sports that he began traveling in helicopters so he would have more time to spend with his daughters instead of sitting in Los Angeles traffic. "Traffic started getting really, really bad, and I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing like a school play, because I was sitting in traffic," Bryant said during the podcast. "I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time. "So that's when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes and that's when it started," he added. In the podcast, Bryant elaborated how important family time was to him, even if it was just to drop them off at school. Read more: Kobe Bryant, 41, dies in helicopter crash in Calabasas, California The helicopter that carried Kobe Bryant and 8 others before crashing on a hillside did not have a black box on board, investigators say Here are the 9 victims of the Calabasas helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter SEE ALSO: 'He was LA's god basically': Heartbroken fans gathered at the Staples Center to share what Kobe Bryant meant to Los Angeles Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 5 things about the NFL that football fans may not know