Kobe Bryant met his wife Vanessa on Nov. 27, 1999

By Gabrielle Chung
January 29, 2020 07:43 PM
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Kobe and Vanessa Bryant celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first time they met weeks before the athlete’s death.

Vanessa, 37, wrote a sweet tribute to her husband — who, along with their daughter Gianna and seven other people, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday — two months ago to mark the milestone.

Sharing a throwback photo of the two of them posing next to each other, Vanessa wrote in a post shared on Instagram on Nov. 27, “The day we met 20 years ago.”

According to Vanessa, the picture was the first one they ever took together.

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant
| Credit: Kobe Bryant/Instagram

“K.o.b.e. I L.o.v.e. YOU ?,” she added, along with the hashtags “forever” and “firstpic” as well as the date “11/27/99.”

Last November, Bryant also shared the same shot to celebrate the anniversary, writing on his personal Instagram account, “On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant.”

The basketball star also posted a picture of the two at present day, which showed the parents embracing in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.

He shared in the caption, “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,” he added. (“Per sempre” means “forever” in Italian.)

Vanessa and Kobe Bryant
| Credit: Kobe Bryant/Instagram

Bryant married Vanessa in April 2001, when he was just 22 and she was 18. The couple went on to have four children together: daughters Natalia, 17, Gianna, 13, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.

Bryant and Gianna were reportedly on their way to a youth basketball game in Thousand Oaks with seven others when their helicopter crashed amid foggy conditions in Calabasas, California and burst into flames.

The two died alongside pilot Ara Zobayan, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa Altobelli.

A source recently told PEOPLE that Vanessa is still struggling to comprehend the losses of her husband and child.

“It’s an extremely difficult and devastating time for Vanessa and the whole family,” the insider said of the Bryants’ loved ones.

The Bryant family
| Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty

Another source previously told PEOPLE that Vanessa is “devastated.”

“She can hardly keep it together,” another insider said. “She can’t finish a sentence without crying. But she is working very hard to pull it together for the other girls. She now has to be the strong one.”

The insider noted, “Of course, you can never be prepared for this. Despite their ups and downs, [Vanessa and Kobe] were soulmates. She thought of him as her partner for life.”

Now, facing a difficult future, Vanessa “is surrounded by people who love her and love Kobe. She has a good support system. She is relying on her faith. She is not alone. But she will be grieving this for a very long time,” the second source explained.

On Wednesday, Vanessa changed her Instagram profile photo to an image that captured Kobe and Gianna sharing a warm embrace at the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. She also made her account public after turning it private following the tragic incident.