Vanessa Bryant delivered heartbreaking remembrances of her late daughter and husband during a star-studded public service at the Staples Center on Monday, an event organizers billed as a “celebration of life.” As the first speaker introduced by emcee Jimmy Kimmel, Bryant took the stage after a video montage and a performance by Beyonce. She delivered reflections on the lives of Kobe and Gianna, setting the tone for a memorial that was both painful and warm.
Tissue in hand, Bryant read from prepared remarks. Starting with Gianna, she remembered how her 13-year-old daughter “always kissed me goodnight, and kissed me good morning.”
Calling Gianna “one of my very best friends,” Bryant said, “she was daddy’s girl but I know she loved her mama.”
“Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face, like mine. Kobe always said she was me,” Bryant shared.
The grieving mother described her daughter as “competitive like her daddy,” “tender and loving on the inside,” “an incredible athlete,” “so energetic,” “confident but not in an arrogant way,” “our shepherd,” and a girl who would have grown to be “the best player in the WNBA.”
Bryant tearfully mourned the future she will never have with her daughter: “We didn’t get the chance to teach her how to drive a car. I won’t be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I’ll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, dance on the dance floor with me, or have babies of her own.”
“She was so full of life and had so much more to offer this world. I cannot imagine life without her,” Bryant said, as cameras captured celebrities weeping in the audience.
She then turned towards her husband. Kobe “was mine, he was my everything,” Bryant remarked, calling the basketball icon “the most amazing husband.”
“Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words,” she said, noting the two “loved each other with our whole beings.”
Bryant described her late husband as the “MVP of girl dads,” someone “who never left the toilet seat up,” and “always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are.”
“He was a doting father,” who “was thoughtful and wrote the best love letters and cards,” and “liked watching ‘Stepmom,’ ‘Steel Magnolias,’ and ‘Little Women,'” Bryant recalled.
“We always talked about how we would be the fun grandparents to our daughters’ children,” said Bryant.
As she concluded, Bryant reflected on both her husband and daughter. “They were so easy to love. Everyone 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 have them together,” said Bryant, who added, “Babe, you take care of our Gigi.”
“May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven, until we meet again someday,” she finished.
As the audience erupted in a standing ovation, Michael Jordan helped her off the stage. The speech marked Bryant’s first public remarks since the fatal helicopter crash that killed her husband and daughter on Jan. 26.