The world is remembering Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and the seven other victims of the tragic January helicopter crash in a public memorial at the Staples Center on Monday. Each tribute has been moving and unique, with speeches from Michael Jordan, Diana Taurasi and several others, to . Vanessa Bryant, wife of Kobe and mother of Gianna, made her first public speech since the tragedy, and in an emotional, yet incredibly composed manner, told stories of her lost loved ones.
Vanessa started by discussing her 13-year-old daughter Gianna, her "baby girl", and what she meant to her and the rest of the Bryant family.
"Kobe always said [Gigi] was me. She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm", she said. "She was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine."
"Gigi was sunshine," Vanessa Bryant said, using her daughter's nickname. "She brightened up my day every day."
Sharing some lesser-known stories and making a few jokes, she discussed the other sports she was great at, adding that she loved her TikTok dances. She could read and write Mandarin and was a leader in school, looking forward to taking on high school with her older sister.
Vanessa reflected on the smaller, but meaningful moments with her daughter, like a simple hug.
"I loved the way she looked up to me while she was hugging me, like she was soaking me all in. We love each other so much. I miss her so much."
Vanessa Bryant: "There were a few occasions where...I thought she had left for school without saying good-bye. I'd text and say 'No kiss?' And Gianna would reply with, 'Mama I kissed you, but you were asleep and I didn't want to wake you'" https://t.co/aWB5MCrxQU pic.twitter.com/AR3xQ9YoqW— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 24, 2020
With amazing strength, Vanessa put into words what Gianna's legacy will be and where she would have gone, had her life not been cut short.
"Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA," Vanessa shared, getting an applause from the crowd. "She was confident, but not in an arrogant way."
She shared how Kobe and Gianna were alike, how they were both great teachers, wanting to help people improve in any way they could.
Vanessa laughed recalling a time where Gigi gave the boys team at her school some pointers to help them out, showing them the triangle offense. The two could also learn a song after just a few listens, something Vanessa called a magical talent of theirs.
Vanessa went on to describe her "soulmate" Kobe, recognizing his love for her and their girls.
"He was thoughtful and wrote the best love letters and cards," she said, explaining some of the loving things he would do for her. She said he was the romantic one, often making homemade gifts and having touching stories to go along with his presents.
It was hard for Vanessa to think of him just as a basketball star, because to their team of six he was much more than that. "Kobe was the MVP of girl dads, or MVD," Bryant said.
Even during games, family was on his mind. As a busy mother, sometimes getting to the games on time was not an easy thing for Vanessa. When she wasn't in her seat at the start of the game, Kobe, during the first timeout of his game, would ask the security at Staples Center if he knew where she was.
"[Kobe] would worry about me if I wasn't in my seat at the start of each game and would ask security where I was at the first timeout of the first quarter. My smart ass would tell him he wasn't going to drop 81 points within the first 10 minutes of the game," Bryant said.
Every day he was determined to become better. A better father to his children, a better husband and a better person for others to look up to. She shared memories of just how he was making those strides and how committed he was to being a girl dad.
Toward the end of her speech, she became visibly more emotional as she shared the things he would no longer be able to do, like help her feel better about dropping the kids off at school, or seeing the girls' first day.
Ending the tribute, she said of Gianna and Kobe:
"They were funny, happy, silly and they loved life. God knew [Kobe and Gigi] couldn't be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together. He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi, I got Nani, Bibi and Coco. We're still the best team."
Vanessa received a standing ovation and love from the crowd.