Vanessa Bryant spoke through tears as she shared memories of her late husband and 13-year-old daughter in front of 20,000 people at the Staples Center on Monday.
It was Bryant’s first public appearance since the Jan. 26 helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna, Gianna’s teammates, three of their parents, an assistant coach, and the pilot.
The crowd gave Bryant a standing ovation as she walked to the podium.
“First, I’d like to thank everyone for coming today, the outpouring of love and support that my family has felt from around the world has been so uplifting,” Bryant said.
For the next 20 minutes, she told stories about her 13-year-old daughter and husband of 20 years.
Bryant spoke of Gianna’s grace and kindness as a daughter and sibling to her three sisters.
“She was daddy’s girl, but I knew she loved her mama,” Bryant said.
She mourned the memories she could have had with Gigi, lamenting the “father and daughter” dance that she’ll never see.
Bryant also highlighted her daughter’s intelligence, skills and athleticism.
“Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA,” Bryant said proudly, drawing an applause from the crowd.
She continued: “She would have made a huge difference. She would have made a huge difference for women’s basketball. Gigi was motivated to change the way everyone viewed women in sports. She wrote papers in school defending women and wrote about how the unequal pay difference for the NBA and the WNBA leagues wasn’t fair.”
Bryant went on to remember her husband, her “Kobe-Kobe” and “papi chulo,” opening with the affectionate nicknames they had for each other.
“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.”
She called their relationship “an amazing love story,” a union of two “perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family.”
Bryant also spoke of her husband’s dedication to their daughters and called him the “MVP of girl dads.”
She shared anecdotes about his love for being Gianna’s coach, and supporting the passion for volleyball of their eldest daughter Natalia.
Of their baby Coco, Bryant said: “I’m so thankful Kobe heard Coco say ‘dada.'”
Bryant described the similarities Kobe and Gianna shared–their drive, thoughtfulness and ability to make people feel their love.
Ending her speech, she said: “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. I got Nani, BB, and Coco. 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.”