As Vanessa Bryant made her way up to the stage in Staples Center, about to speak for the first time publicly to the world since her soul mate and precious daughter were tragically taken from this world, many in the audience and watching from home were surprised she would have the strength to speak.
She and Kobe, after all, had been together since she was 17 and a half years old, decades together, through happy times and sad times.
As Vanessa first delivered a heartfelt message to her daughter, Gianna -- Mambacita -- tears began flowing in the crowd.
The pain of losing a child for most is unimaginable, and for parents to consider, unbearable.
Photos: Stars Pay Tribute to NBA Legend Kobe Bryant at Staples Center
Jennifer Lopez's tears flowed down her face as Vanessa's voice broke, ever so softly, when talking about Gigi's smile, and how it took up her whole face.
As she talked about her remarkable family life, however, it wasn’t how glamorous, or extravagant, or how jet-setting their lifestyles could be that resonated with the crowd -- it’s how normal their family life is and was that struck a chord.
Vanessa talked of how Gigi loved watching "Cupcake Wars," and how Kobe coached her on the basketball court.
She spoke of how Kobe and Natalia watched movie marathons, debating "Harry Potter" and "Star Wars" films.
And while yes, Kobe had the ability to rent out a movie theater for his girls, it was the moments of life’s simplicity that brought tears to the eyes in the crowd.
This was a family that watched Disney movies, and where big sisters gladly helped mom take care of baby sisters.
Vanessa also touched on a scenario, while not at all familiar to those of us who can’t imagine courtside seats, can very clearly imagine a spouse checking up on his other half.
“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 would ask security where I was at the first time-out of the first quarter,” Vanessa told a crowd of thousands. “And my smart ass would tell him that he wasn’t going to drop 81 points within the first 10 minutes of the game.”
The familiar banter of a couple married for longer than a decade made many in the crowd laugh, and nod.
But it wasn’t the tales of courtside seats or renting out theaters, or the purchase of the actual dress Rachel McAdams wore in “The Notebook” that made our hearts ache.
It was the stories Vanessa told of Kobe lathering his babies in lotion after bath time, of Gianna’s affinity for TikTok dances, the handwritten notes, the long waits for Kobe as he arrived early to pick up his girls from school -- those are the moments that make parents', and husbands' and wives' chests hurt.
It's the text messages we write to our spouses, saying, once things slow down, I’d love to spend time with my best friend again.
And what makes the Bryants so extraordinary is actually that they are ordinary. They are us. And that’s what hurts the most when you watch a mother weep over her soul mate, her daughter’s infectious smile, and the many memories that are yet to -- and will never -- happen.
"God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other," Vanessa tearfully said. "He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi. And I got Nani, B.B., and KoKo. We’re still the best team."
Read the full text of Vanessa’s speech below.
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. Thank you for all prayers.
I'd like to talk about both Kobe and Gigi. But I’ll start with my baby girl first.
My baby girl...
Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was always thoughtful. She always kissed me goodnight and good morning.
There were a few occasions when I was absolutely tired from being with Bianca and Capri, and I thought she left without saying goodbye.
I would text and say, ‘no kiss?’ She would reply and say, ‘I kissed you and didn't wake you.’
She knew how much her morning and evening kisses meant to me.
She was so thoughtful to remember to kiss me every day. She was daddy's girl, but I know she loved her mama. She would always show me and tell me how much she loved me.
She was one of my very best friends.
She loved to bake.
She loves putting a smile on everyone’s face.
Last August, she made a beautiful birthday cake for her daddy. It had fondant, and looked like it had blue agate crystals. Kobe’s birthday cake looked like it was professionally decorated.
She made the best chocolate chip cookies.
She loved watching cooking shows and "Cupcake Wars" with me.
And she loved watching “Survivor” and NBA games on TV with her daddy.
She also loved watching Disney movies with her sisters.
Gigi was very competitive like her daddy but Gianna had a sweet grace about her.
Her smile was like sunshine.
Her smile took up her entire face, like mine.
Kobe always said she was me, has my fire, my personality and sarcasm. But tender and loving on the inside.
She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine.
Kobe and Gianna naturally gravitated to each other.
She had Kobe’s ability to listen to a song and have all the lyrics memorized after listening to the song a couple of times. It was their secret talent.
She was an incredible athlete. She was great at gymnastics, soccer, softball, dance and basketball.
She was an incredible dancer too. She loved to swim, dance, cartwheels, and jump into our swimming pool.
Gigi loved her TikTok dances.
Gigi was confident but not in an arrogant way.
She loved helping and teaching other people things.
At school she offered the boys’ basketball coaches to help give the boys basketball team some pointers.
Like the triangle offense.
She was very much like her daddy, in that they both liked helping people learn new things and master them.
They were great teachers.
Gigi was very sweet, always made sure everyone was OK. She was our shepherd, she always kept our family together.
She loved family traditions, family movie night and game night on vacations were important to her.
She always looked out for everyone. She was very much in tune with her feelings.
Gianna was smart. She knew how to read, speak and write Mandarin.
She knew Spanish.
She had great grades, and kept them up all while becoming an incredible basketball player.
She was president of school spirit, on student council. She was director’s assistant for school play, just like her big sister.
She was looking forward to graduating 8th grade and moving on to high school with her big sister Natalia.
I’m so happy she was given the opportunity to know she was accepted to the same high school. She was really happy.
Gianna made us proud and she still does. Gianna never tried to conform.
She was always herself. She was a nice person, a leader, a teacher, wearing a white T, black leggings, a denim jacket, white high top Converse and a flannel tied around her waist, with straight hair - it was her go-to style.
She had such swag and rhythm ever since she was a baby.
She gave the best hugs and best kisses.
She had gorgeous soft lips just like her daddy.
She would hug me and hold me so tight, I could feel her love me. I loved the way she looked up at me while hugging me.
It was as if she was soaking me all in. We love each other so much. I miss her so much.
She was so energetic. I couldn’t keep up with her energy.
She lapped Natalia and I on a track once. She was about 6 years old. We let her have a head-start, she still bested us.
I miss her sweet kisses, I miss her cleverness, her wit, her sarcasm. I miss that adorable sly smile, followed with a grin and a burst of laughter.
We share the same “cat that ate the canary” grin. Gigi was sunshine. She brightened up my day every day.
I miss looking at her beautiful face.
She was always so good. A rule follower. I knew I could always count on her to do the right thing.
She was the most loving daughter, thoughtful little sister, and silly big sister.
She happily carried the littles’ diaper bag, or played with them. She liked helping me with Bianca and Capri. Bianca liked going to the playground, swimming and jumping on the trampoline with Gigi.
I used to tell Gigi that I thought KoKo considered her the best sister.
Capri would smile from ear to ear when Gigi walked into the room, and Capri reminds me a lot of Gianna.
They look alike and just smile with their whole face. Pure joy.
We will not be able to see Gigi go to high school with Natalia and ask her how her day went.
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. Gianna would have been an amazing mommy. She was very maternal ever since she was very little.
Gianna would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA. She would’ve 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.
And I truly feel she made positive changes for the WNBA players now.
Gigi’s goal was to play in the WNBA.
I'm still so proud of Gianna. She made a difference and was kind to everyone she met in the 13 years she was here on Earth.
Her classmates shared many fond memories of Gianna with us, and those stories reminded me Gianna showed everyone that no act of kindness is too small to make a difference in someone’s life.
She was always, always, always considerate of others and their feelings.
She was beautiful, kind, happy, silly, thoughtful, and loving daughter and sister.
She was so full of life, and had so much more to offer this world. I cannot imagine life without her.
Mommy, Natalia, Bianca, Capri and daddy love you so much, Gigi.
I will miss your sweet hand-made cards, your sweet kisses, and your gorgeous smile.
I miss you, all of you, every day. I love you.
Vanessa’s word for Kobe
Now for my soulmate...
Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court. The greatest of all time, writer, an Oscar winner, and the Black Mamba, but to me he was Kob Kob, my Boo Boo, my Bae Boo, my Papi Chulo.
I was his VeBe, his principesa, his reina, his Queen Mamba.
I couldn't see him as a celebrity nor an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children.
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 confidante, 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, I was the night owl.
I was fired. 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, 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 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 while working hard to be the best athlete.
He gave to me the actual notebook and blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in the movie.
When I asked him why he chose the blue dress, he said it was the same as when Allie comes back to Noah.
We had hoped to grow old together like the movie. We had an amazing love story.
We loved each other with our whole beings. Two imperfectly perfect 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 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 always talked about how we would be fun grandparents to our daughters’ children.
He would’ve been the coolest grandpa.
Kobe was the MVP of girl dads, or 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 to keep pushing forward when things got tough.
When Kobe retired from the NBA, he took over dropping off and picking up the girls from school since I was at home pregnant with Bianca and just recently at 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 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 be 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 Bianca 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 a few minutes.
He said he had it down to a science, eight times up and down our hallway.
He loved taking Bianca to Fashion Island and watching her play in the koi pond area and loved taking her to the park.
Their most recent visit to the koi pond was evening before he and Gigi passed.
He shared a love of movies and the 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 loved every second of it.
He loved tearjerkers 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 would ask security where I was at the first time-out of the first quarter.
And my smart ass 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 sometimes you can't make it out the door on time, and eventually, he was used to my tardiness.
The fact that he could play on an intense professional level and still be concerned with making sure we made it to the game safely was just another example of how family came first for him.
He loved being Gianna’s basketball coach. He told me he wished he would’ve convinced Natalia to play basketball so 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 and he noticed how she was a very intelligent player.
He was convinced she would have made a great point guard with her vision of the court.
And he told me he wanted Bianca 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 he always told Bianca and Capri that they were going to grow up and play basketball and mix they ass 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 grateful Kobe heard Coco say “dada.”
He isn't going to be here to drop Bianca and Capri off at pre-k and kindergarten.
He isn’t going to be here to tell me to "get a grip, V," when we have to leave the kindergarten classroom.
Or show up to our daughters’ doctor's visits for my own moral 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 the kind of person, husband and father he was.
The kind of man that wanted to teach the future generations to be better and 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 life and sports through his NBA career, his books, his show "Detail" and his "Punies" podcast.
He was thoughtful and wrote the best love letters and cards, and Gigi had his wonderful ability to express her feelings into paper and make you feel her love through her words.
She was thoughtful like him, and 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. Babe, you take care of our Gigi.
And I got Nani, B.B., 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.