Vanessa Bryant Introduces TIME's Person of the Year In Memoriam Featuring Kobe and Gianna
The Lakers star and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in January in a tragic helicopter crash
Speaking in a pre-recorded message during the TIME Person of the Year presentation's In Memoriam, Vanessa, 38, said, "Words cannot do justice to the grief we felt this year. At every level of human connection from across the world to across the table, we experienced profound loss."
"We said goodbye to husbands, daughters, wives, sons, grandparents, friends and national heroes," she added. "And we continue to count the lives surrendered to this cruel pandemic, which has claimed well over a million souls, worldwide."
After Vanessa's remarks, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott performed a moving rendition of "Over the Rainbow" for the presentation's In Memoriam section, which led with Kobe and Gianna.
Kobe died in January at 41 alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The wreck also killed seven others who were aboard the aircraft: Payton Chester, 13, Sarah Chester, 46, Alyssa Altobelli, 14, Keri Altobelli, 46, John Altobelli, 56, Christina Mauser, 38, and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.
The group had been traveling to a youth basketball tournament at Kobe's Mamba Academy. The former Los Angeles Lakers star is survived by Vanessa and their daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 17-month-old Capri.
Since the tragedy, Vanessa has shared several tributes to Kobe — whom she said last month she fell in love with at first sight when they met 21 years ago.
"Love at first sight 11/27/99 #21," she wrote on Instagram, along with a photo of the couple sharing a loving embrace at Disneyland.
She also marked what would have been his 42nd birthday in August.
"To my baby~ Happy birthday. I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain. I wish you and Gigi were here to celebrate YOU! I wish I could make you your fav food or a birthday cake with my Gigi," the mother of four said on Instagram at the time.
"I miss your big hugs, your kisses, your smile, your loud ass deep laugh. I miss teasing you, making you laugh and bursting your bubble," she continued. "I miss you sitting on my lap like my big baby that you are. I think about your tenderness and patience all the time. I think about everything you would do in situations to help me deal with everything thrown my way."
"Thank you for growing up with me and teaching me how to be strong," Vanessa said. "How to try to see the best in people but cutout the bs. Your thoughtful gestures and the amazing way you made us all feel is extremely missed. I picture your smile and wide big welcoming hugs daily."
"There's so much I wish I could tell you and show you and Gigi," Vanessa added, mentioning Gianna, who had been following in her dad's footsteps as a budding basketball star. "So many things you would both be happy to see and be a part of."