'I couldn't see him as a celebrity, nor as an incredible basketball player, he was my sweet husband.'
It was an emotional day at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, as fans, friends and family members came in droves to remember the lives and legacies of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, who died tragically in a helicopter crash last month.
Vanessa first paid tribute to her "baby girl" before speaking about the life she built with Kobe.
Here's a look at her emotional speech in honor of her late husband:
Now for my soulmate.
Kobe was known for being a fierce competitor on the basketball court, the greatest of all time, a writer, and Oscar winner and the Black Mamba. But to me, he was Kob Kob, my Boo Boo, my Bay Boo, my Papi Chulo. I was his Vee-Bee, his Principessa, his Reina, his Queen Mamba and his Veeski-Maneeski-Fabuleeski. I couldn't see him as a celebrity, nor as an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children. He was mine. He was my everything.
Kobe and I have been together since I was 17 and a half years old. I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant and his protector. 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. He was charismatic, a gentleman. He was loving, adoring and romantic. He was truly the romantic one in our relationship. I looked forward to Valentine’s Day and our anniversaries every year. He planned special anniversary trips and a special traditional gift for every year of our marriage. He even handmade my most treasured gifts. He just thought outside the box and was so thoughtful even when working hard to be the best athlete.
He gave me the actual notebook and the blue dress that Rachel McAdams wore in The Notebook movie. When I asked him why he chose the blue dress, he said it was because it’s the scene when Ali comes back to Noah. We had hoped to grow old together like in the movie. 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.
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’m his best friend first. We never got the chance to do it. We were busy taking care of our girls and just doing our regular, everyday responsibilities, but I’m thankful I have that recent text. It means so much to me. Kobe wanted us to renew our vows, he wanted Natalia to take over his company, and he wanted to travel the world together. We had always talked about how we’d be the fun grandparents to our daughters’ children. He would've been the coolest grandpa. Kobe was the MVP of Girl Dads - or the MVD.
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. And when Kobe retired from the NBA, he took over picking up and dropping off the girls from school since I was at home pregnant with Bianka and just recently home nursing Capri. 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 in line 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. So he showed up one hour and 20 minutes early after that.
He always knew there was room for improvement and wanted to do better. He happily did carpool and enjoyed spending time in the car with our girls. He was a doting father. A father that was hands-on and present. He helped me bathe Bianka and Capri almost every night. He would sing them silly songs in the shower and continue making them laugh and smile as he lathered them in lotion and got them ready for bed. He had magic arms and could put Capri to sleep in only a matter of minutes. He said he had it down to a science - eight times up and down our hallway.
He loved taking Bianka to Fashion Island and watch her play in the koi pond area and he loved taking her to the park. Their most recent visit to the koi pond was the evening before he and Gigi passed. He shared a love of movies and a breakdown of films with Natalia. He enjoyed renting out theaters and taking Natalia to watch the newest Star Wars movie or Harry Potter films. And they would have movie marathons and he would enjoy every second of it. He loved your typical tear-jerkers too. He liked watching Stepmom, Steel Magnolias and Little Women. He had a tender heart.
Kobe somehow knew where I was at all times. Specifically when I was late to his games. He would worry about me if I wasn’t in my seat at the start of each game and he would ask security where I was at the first timeout 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. I think anyone with kids understands that sometimes we can’t make it out the door on time. And eventually, he was used to my tardiness and balled out.
The fact that he could play on an intense professional level and still be concerned by making sure we still made it to the game safely was just another example of how family came first to him. He loved being Gianna’s basketball coach. He told me he wished he would have convinced Natalia to play basketball so that they could’ve spent even more time together, but he also wanted her to pursue her own passion. He watched Natalia play in a volleyball tournament on her birthday on Jan. 19 and he noticed how she’s a very intelligent player. He was convinced she would’ve made a great point guard with her vision of the court. And he told me that he wanted Bianka and Capri to take up basketball when they get older so he could spend just as much time with them as he did with Gigi.
And Kobe always told Bianka and Capri that they were going to grow up and play basketball and “mix they a** up." 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.” He isn't going to be here to drop Bianka and Capri off at pre-K or kindergarten. He isn’t going to tell me to “get a grip, V” when we have to leave the kindergarten classroom, or [he'd] show up to our daughters' doctors visits for my own emotional support.
He isn’t going to be able to walk our girls down the aisle or spin me around on the dance floor while singing “PYT” to me. But I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband and father he was. The kind of man that wanted to teach the future generations to be better and to keep them from making his own mistakes. He always liked working and doing projects to improve kids’ lives. He taught us all valuable lessons about sports through his NBA career, his books, his show detail and his The Punies podcast series and we’re so thankful he left those lessons and stories behind for us.
He was thoughtful and wrote the best love letters and cards. Gigi had his wonderful ability to express your feelings onto paper and make you feel your love through her words. She was thoughtful like him. They were so easy to love. Everyone always 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 heaven together.
Babe, you take care of our Gigi, and I’ve got Nani, Bebe and Koko. We’re still the best team. 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.
Here's a look back at Vanessa and Kobe's love story: