On February 24, family, friends, former NBA players and current NBA players gathered at the Staples Center to commemorate the lives of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and nine other lives tragically lost in the helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. The memorial gave opportunities for loved ones to speak and share stories in honor of the legend, Kobe, and his daughter Gianna.
Shaquille O’Neal had a chance to speak about his former teammate and loving friend. He shared stories about how they argued, fought, and bantered over the years but maintained a great friendship that made them brothers at heart. Shaq explained how they pushed each other to become the best they could be on and off the court.
“Kobe and I pushed one another to play some of the greatest basketball of all time, and I’m proud that no other team has accomplished what the three-peat Lakers have done since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers did it,” Shaq said.
He ended the speech by promising to continue the legacy Kobe left while making sure to teach his daughters Natalia, Bianka and baby Capri his Mamba moves and mentality. Shaq shared that Kobe always said that negativity, pressure and challenges were an opportunity for him to rise.
“So now we take your advice and rise from anguish and begin healing. Just know that we got your back, little brother… Till we meet again. Rest In Peace, Kobe,” Shaq said.
Vanessa Bryant, wife of Kobe and mother of Gianna, publicly spoke for the first time since the death of her husband and daughter. She was able to memorialize them while holding back tears. Vanessa started off her speech by talking about the life of her baby girl Gianna. She took pride in all of her daughter’s accomplishments, talents and way of being genuinely filled with joy. Gianna never forgot to give her mom a kiss every morning and every night, showing how much of a loving soul she was.
“She was very much like her daddy, and they both liked helping people learn new things and master them. They were great teachers,” Vanessa said.
Vanessa spoke about the moments she would never be able to share with her daughter, like Gianna’s wedding, father-daughter dances and meeting her grandkids. Vanessa also said how Gianna and her dad, Kobe, were never meant to be separated from each other.
“God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home together,” Vanessa said of her late husband and daughter, while going on to add, “Babe, you take care of our Gigi. And I got Nati, Bibi and Koko.”
Vanessa then went on to talk about her late husband and basketball legend, Kobe Bryant. She explained how she never saw him as a celebrity or as just an incredible basketball player, she saw him as her soulmate…her everything.
“I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his confidant and his protector. He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words,” Vanessa said.
She remembers him as a loving husband, an amazing father, a wise teacher, an unmatchable basketball player and, most of all, a soul that will forever be alive in all of our hearts.
“They were so easy to love… They were funny, happy, silly and they loved life… We love and miss you, Boo-Boo and Gigi. May you both Rest In Peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you. Forever and always, Mommy,” Vanessa said.
Many more people were able to speak about their moments with the two. Beyoncé Knowles and Alicia Keys performed at the two hour memorial as well. Being able to all come together, even if we weren’t physically present, was a healing step every one needed to take. Rest in peace Gianna and Kobe.