"I'm so proud of you," Vanessa Bryant said on her late daughter Gianna's graduation day

By Karen Mizoguchi
June 05, 2020 04:20 PM
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Ethan Miller/Getty

Four months after the tragic January helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna Bryant and seven other victims, Vanessa Bryant honored their teen on what would've been her graduation day.

The mother of four shared a tribute to Gianna on Instagram Friday, in honor of Harbor Day School's ceremony.

"Congratulations on your 8th grade graduation Gigi. I love you forever and always. I’m so proud of you. ❤️, Mommy #classof2020," Vanessa wrote, along with the middle school diploma that was covered in white flowers.

Gianna was a member of the student council and a star player on the Harbor Day basketball team.

Alyssa, 14, was an eighth-grade student at Ensign Intermediate School in Newport Beach, California, and Payton, 13, was an eighth-grade student at St. Margaret's Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, California.

Days following the crash, Harbor Day retired Gianna's jersey during a touching ceremony attended by students, faculty and families.

Vanessa shared several videos of the ceremony, which began with a message from members of the Harbor Day Student Council, who spoke fondly of Gianna's desire to "make things better."

A bouquet of heart-shaped balloons and a table adorned with a flower arrangement in the shape of the number two — which Gianna wore proudly as a player on both the Mamba Sports Academy and Harbor Day basketball team — decorated the school's gymnasium.

"In the 7th grade when she said she'd run for student council I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to hear and see what she would do to help elevate our student population. We gave her one assignment and she ran with it as quickly and as eagerly as anyone I’ve ever seen. Gianna was an amazing leader in our student council. We will always remember her will to make things better and to strive for excellence," the student council faculty advisor said.

Vanessa also shared a photo of Gianna’s framed jersey writing, "My Gigi. I love you! I miss you. You’ve taught us all that no act of kindness is ever too small. Mommy is still and will ALWAYS be so proud of you mamacita. ❤️#2."

In a separate post, the Bryant matriarch wrote, "My Gianna. God I miss you. I've been so lucky to have woken up to see your gorgeous face and amazing smile for 13 years. Wish it would've been until my last breath."

Gianna dreamed of playing basketball for the University of Connecticut and to play in the WNBA. In January, UConn created a special Huskies jersey with Gianna's No. 2 emblazoned on the front, sharing, "Mambacita is forever a Husky" and "Kobe and Gianna meant a lot to our program. Our thoughts are with the Bryant family. Mamba Mentality will live on forever, but they are deeply missed."

And in April, Gianna was named an honorary draftee during this year's WNBA virtual draft, along with Mamba Academy teammates Alyssa and Payton.