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"You have displayed so much strength and grace throughout the most difficult year of our lives," Vanessa Bryant wrote to daughter Natalia, who turned 18 on Tuesday

By Eric Todisco
January 19, 2021 09:05 AM
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Vanessa Bryant is showering her daughter, Natalia Bryant, with love on her 18th birthday.

On Tuesday, Vanessa, 38, posted several sweet tributes to Natalia on Instagram, including two throwback shots of the teen with her late father, Kobe Bryant, who died nearly one year ago on Jan. 26 alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and several others in a helicopter crash.

In one shot, Vanessa and Kobe sit on the Los Angeles Lakers court with a then-baby Natalia for a sweet family photo. In another snap from that same day, the NBA legend sweetly looked at his baby girl as he held her in his arms.

"Daddy's little princess, Natalia. ❤️🎉🎂🎉#18#BirthdayGirl," she captioned the second post of Kobe holding his daughter.

Vanessa — who is also mom to daughters Bianka, 4, and Capri, 1 — shared more posts with recent photos of Natalia, one including a lengthy and heartfelt tribute in which Vanessa thanked Natalia for helping care for her younger siblings.

"Dear Natalia, Happy Birthday! Mommy and Daddy are so proud of the young lady that you are," Vanessa wrote. "You have displayed so much strength and grace throughout the most difficult year of our lives. Thank you for stepping in to help me with your little sisters."

The proud mom went on to call Natalia an "incredible big sister" and "a beautiful role model," adding, "Thank you for being kind, polite and gracious in everything that you do. You have no idea how happy and proud mommy and daddy are that you're our daughter."

"We love you always and forever, forever and always," she added. "Happy 18th birthday to our first born, Natalia, our principessa! Love always, Mommy, Daddy, Gigi, BB and Koko❤️."

The rest of Vanessa's posts, featuring smiling photos of Natalia, had short but sweet captions. "Our sweet Natalia. ❤️#18 🎉🎂🎉😘💋," she wrote alongside one pic of the teen, while she captioned another photo, "I ❤️you @nataliabryant ! #BirthdayGirl#18."

Last month, Vanessa took her three daughters on a post-holiday ski trip with her friend Ciara, who brought along her kids Future, 6, and Sienna, 3.

During the trip, Natalia sprained her finger and wrist on the trip, which Vanessa joked was "payback" for making fun of her dad.

"This is payback for making fun of daddy's fingers. I was waiting for that [Gary Vitti] finger pull so I tried to distract her," she wrote on Instagram at the time, referencing one of Kobe's past injuries, and Vitti, the Los Angeles Lakers' former athletic trainer. "Thankfully that wasn't necessary."

natalia bryant, vanessa bryant
Vanessa and Natalia Bryant
| Credit: Stefanie Keenan/Getty; Kevin Mazur/Getty

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of Kobe and Gianna's deaths, Vanessa recently opened up about her experience with grief — and shared some encouraging words for those who might be going through similar emotions.

"Grief is a messed up cluster of emotions," she wrote on her Instagram Stories Friday. "One day you're in the moment laughing and the next day you don't feel like being alive. I want to say this for people struggling with grief and heartbreaking loss. Find your reason to live. I know it's hard."

Vanessa then said that it's her children who help give her reason: "I look at my daughters and I try to push through that feeling for them."

"Death is guaranteed but living the rest of the day isn't," she concluded. "Find your reason."

Contributions to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation will help support youth sports.