“On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant,” the late NBA player wrote on November 28, 2019. “I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4princesses) I love you my mamacita per sempre.”
Kobe included a throwback photo of himself and Vanessa, now 37, as well as a shot of them posing in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle during their recent Disneyland outing.
The Bryants met in November 1999 and got engaged just six months later. They wed in April 2001 and went on to welcome four daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri.
“Kobe was an incredibly hands-on dad,” a source told Us Weekly exclusively on Tuesday, January 28. “His daughters and Vanessa were his world.”
The family suffered two devastating losses on Sunday, January 26, when Kobe and Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas neighborhood of Los Angeles. The father-daughter duo were 41 and 13, respectively.
The athlete, Gianna and their friends were en route to one of the teenager’s basketball games when the accident occurred. The Associated Press reported that the pilot told air traffic controllers in his final radio message that he was attempting to climb to avoid clouds in the foggy weather. Moments later, the helicopter plunged more than 1,000 feet and crashed into a hillside, immediately bursting into flames.
“The entire family is gutted without Kobe and Gigi,” the source told Us on Tuesday.
Kobe’s former teammates, opponents, fans and fellow celebrities have flooded social media with heartwarming tributes since his death.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections and two Olympic gold medals,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.”
Alicia Keys honored the Oscar winner while hosting the 2020 Grammy Awards on Sunday evening at the Los Angeles Lakers’ home venue, Staples Center. She sang “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” with Boyz II Men at the top of the ceremony, and the arena illuminated Kobe’s jerseys in the rafters.
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