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"Just in general, Kobe was very proud that both of his older girls were hard working at school and seemed to get his principles of life," a source tells PEOPLE

By Tim McGovern and Pernilla Cedenheim
January 27, 2020 11:20 PM
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Before Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were tragically killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, the 41-year-old basketball legend “felt very privileged” that he was able to be her coach.

“The family live in a very affluent community in Newport Beach,” a source in Newport Beach tells PEOPLE of the Bryants’ home. “Still, they are not your typical Newport Beach family.”

“A lot of families have parents that constantly work and kids that are being raised by nannies. The Bryants have always been different. The focus on family has always been a priority. Vanessa is a stay-at-home mom and after Kobe stopped playing basketball, the main focus has been about raising their daughters.”

And when it came to being a father, Bryant was very hands on. “As a dad, Kobe has always been very involved,” the source adds. “You could tell he was intensely proud of his daughters. The fact that Gigi got so interested and invested in playing basketball herself, it was obvious that Kobe just loved it. It wasn’t anything that he encouraged her to do, she decided on her own that she wanted to play. He felt very privileged that he was able to coach her. They had an amazing relationship.”

“Just in general, Kobe was very proud that both of his older girls were hard working at school and seemed to get his principles of life. He wanted them to always work hard and to not complain.”

The source says that at least last year, Gianna attended Harbor Day school and Natalia attended Sage Hill School.

Kobe Bryant
The Bryant family
| Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty

“The older girls were aware that they were being raised privileged. The whole family was very much about charity work and helping out less fortunate. They have never come across as spenders, or show-offs. The family was always involved at the girls’ schools. You could tell that Kobe just wanted to be one of the dads. If someone talked ball with him and gave him compliments, he was always very humble and gracious.”

“Vanessa is very girly so both older girls definitely mimicked after her. They have been into fashion and dressing up girly. But sports has been very important to them as well. Natalia plays volleyball. Kobe often spoke about Natalia’s talent as well. He just loved them and was proud that both girls were focused, worked hard and were doing well. He never seemed concerned about them,” the source adds.

Bryant’s love for his family is the very reason he began relying on helicopters to travel.

In a resurfaced 2018 interview with Alex Rodriguez for Barstool Sports podcast The Corp with A-Rod and Big Cat, Bryant said that he would often spend a lot of time stuck in traffic while heading to practice for the Los Angeles Lakers from his home in Orange County.

Traffic impeded his routine of dropping off and picking up the girls — Natalia, 17, Gianna, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months — from school before and after those practices, he said.

“Traffic started getting really, really bad,” said Bryant. “And I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing like a school play, because I was sitting in traffic. … I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time.”

He continued, “So that’s when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes and that’s when it started.”

Bryant said his wife Vanessa Bryant, 37, told him she would pick up their children from school, but he was adamant that “I want to do that.”

Kobe Bryant family
Kobe Bryant with Vanessa and their children
| Credit: Kobe Bryant/Instagram

He told Rodriguez, “You have like road trips and times where you don’t see your kids. … So every chance I get to see them, to spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car.”

Bryant and his daughter died alongside Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, John Altobelli and his wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter Alyssa Altobelli. The group was headed to a travel basketball game, ESPN reported.