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"Babe, you take care of our Gigi," Vanessa Bryant said

By Karen Mizoguchi and Lindsay Kimble
February 24, 2020 02:16 PM
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Vanessa Bryant bravely took the stage to eulogize her late husband and daughter, Kobe and Gianna Bryant, during the celebration of life for the Lakers icon on Monday.

“Thank you all so much for being here, it means so much to us,” Vanessa, 37, began her speech at Staples Center after an introduction from Jimmy Kimmel. “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.”

Joined by her girls — Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri — the matriarch was surrounded by their family and friends, along with her late husband’s former basketball colleagues and teammates.

Vanessa started by honoring Gianna, who was 13 when she was killed in the helicopter crash alongside her father last month.

“My baby girl,” she said, taking a moment to compose herself. “Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was always thoughtful.”

Continued Vanessa, “She was daddy’s girl but I know she loved her mamma. She was one of my very best friends.”

Vanessa noted that the budding athlete “was very competitive like her daddy,” but that “Kobe always said she was me — she had my fire, my personality and sarcasm, but she was tender and loving on the inside.”

“She had the best laugh. It was infectious, it was pure and genuine. Kobe and Gianna naturally gravitated toward each other. ”

Vanessa noted that her daughter “loved family traditions” and “looked out for everyone.”

“We will not be able to see Gianna go to highschool with Natalia … we didn’t get the chance to teach her how to drive a car,” said Vanessa. “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 … or have babies of her own.”

Concluded Vanessa, “I miss you, all of you, every day.”

“Now for my soulmate,” said Vanessa before transitioning to words of remembrance about her husband. “He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words.”

Continued the grieving wife, “I have no idea how I deserved a man who loved or wanted me more than Kobe.”

Vanessa Bryant
Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty

“We loved each other with our whole beings, two perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family and raising our sweet and amazing girls,” she said of her longtime husband, who she married in 2001.

Vanessa also paid tribute to Kobe’s much-documented love of fatherhood, saying, “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.”

She added, “He had a tender heart.”

“But I want my daughters to know the amazing person, husband and father he was,” said Vanessa. “The kind of man who wanted to teach the future generations to be better… he taught us all valuable lessons about life and sports… we’re so thankful he left those lessons and stories behind for us.”

Concluding her emotional speech, Vanessa said of her husband and daughter, “They were so easy to love. Everyone naturally gravitated toward 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 Vanessa, before telling her late husband. “Babe, you take care of our Gigi. And I got Nani, B.B. and Koko. We’re still the best team.”

“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.”

The memorial, of which the date honors Gianna’s No. 2 jersey at the Mamba Sports Academy, and Kobe’s No. 24 in the latter half of Lakers career, also honored victims John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan.

Earlier this month, PEOPLE confirmed Kobe and Gianna were laid to rest. The date of disposition on death certificates obtained by PEOPLE was listed as February 7 at Pacific View Memorial Park and Mortuary in Corona Del Mar, California.

Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty

Vanessa first spoke out about the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter on Instagram, just three days after the incident.

“My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri,” she wrote, along with a photo of the entire Bryant family.

“We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon,” Vanessa continued.

Vanessa has continued to thank fans and followers for their support, and on Feb. 10, she opened up about the “nightmare” of losing her beloved husband and daughter.

“I’ve been reluctant to put my feelings into words. My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone. I can’t process both at the same time. It’s like I’m trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me,” she wrote on Instagram.

Kobe Bryant
Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty

And most recently, on Valentine’s Day, Vanessa paid tribute to her husband Kobe in honor of his “favorite holiday.”

“To my forever Valentine, I love you so much. Missing you so much on your favorite holiday. Te amo per sempre. Kisses to you and Gigi in heaven. Happy Valentine’s Day, my babies. With all my love, your boo-boo,” she shared on Instagram, along with their love song, Lauryn Hill’s “Tell Him.”

If you would like to help the families of the victims of the crash, consider donating to the Mamba on Three Fund. Contributions to the Mamba Sports Foundation will help support youth sports.