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Kobe Farewell: Vanessa Bryant, Shaq, Michael Jordan, Jimmy Kimmel & Beyoncé honor Gianna and Kobe in emotional farewell

Valentine Chinyem

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The Staples Center in Los Angeles was filled to its 20,000 with mourners who trooped in on Monday for the public memorial in honor of basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed along with seven other people in a helicopter crash on January 26, in Calabasas area of California.

It was Beyoncé who opened the memorial with her song, “XO.”

According to her, the song was one of Kobe’s favorite songs.
She she also went ahead to perform her 2008 hit song “Halo.”

“I’m here because I love Kobe,” Beyoncé said.

A strong Vanessa took the stage to a standing ovation.

She gave a heartbreaking speech at the public memorial service for her late husband Kobe and 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

Vanessa who started her speech by eulogizing her daughter, described her as “an amazingly sweet and gentle soul.”

While struggling to hold back tears, she added that Gianna, “made a difference and was king to everyone she met in the 13 years she was here on Earth.”

“She was a beautiful, kind, happy, silly, thoughtful and loving daughter and sister. She was so full of life and had so much more to offer this world. I can’t imagine life without her. We love you so much, Gigi,” she said.

Kobe and daughter Gigi

She moved on to describe Kobe, who she said meant everything to her.

She said, Kobe and Gianna were meant to be together forever, noting that, “God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other… “He had to bring them home to have them together,” She said, as she concluded speech.

Read Vannessa Bryant’s full speech below:

”Thank you. Thank you all so much for being here. It means so much to us. First, 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. Thank you so much for all your prayers.

I’d like to talk about both Kobe and Gigi. But I’ll start with my baby girl first. My baby girl. Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was always thoughtful. She always would kiss me goodnight and kiss me good morning.

There were a few occasions where I was absolutely tired from being up with Bianca and Capri. And I thought she had left school without saying goodbye. I would text and say ‘no kiss?’ And Gianna would reply with ‘Mama, I kissed you. But you were asleep, and I didn’t want to wake you.’ She knew how much her morning and evening kisses meant to me, and she was so thoughtful to remember to kiss me every day.

She was daddy’s girl, but I know she loves her mama. And she would always tell me and show me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends. She loved cake. She loved putting a smile on everyone’s face. Last August, she made a beautiful birthday cake for her daddy. It had fondant and look like it had blue agate crystals. Kobe’s birthday cake looks like it was professionally decorated.

She made the best chocolate chip cookies. She loved watching cooking shows and Cupcake Wars with me, and she loved watching Survivor and NBA games on TV with her daddy. She also loved watching Disney movies with her sisters.

Gigi was very competitive like her daddy. But Gianna had a sweet grace about her. Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face like mine. Kobe always said she was me. She had my fire. My personality and sarcasm. 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 towards each other. She had Kobe’s ability to listen to a song and have all the lyrics memorized after listening to the song a couple of times. It was their secret talent. She was an incredible athlete. She was great at gymnastics, soccer, softball, dance and basketball. She was incredible dancer too. She loves to swim, dance, do cartwheels and jumps into our swimming pool and Gigi loved her Tik Tok dances.

Gigi was confident, but not in an arrogant way. She loved helping and teaching other people things. At school, she offered the boys basketball coaches to help give the boys basketball team some pointers. Like the triangle offense. She was very much like her daddy, and that they both liked helping people learn new things and master them. They were great teachers.

Gigi was very sweet. She always made sure everyone was okay. She was our shepherd. She always kept her family together. She loved family traditions. Family movie night and game night on vacations were important to her. She always looked out for everyone. She was very much in tune with our feelings and wanted the best for us. Gianna was smart. She knew how to read, speak and write Mandarin. She knew Spanish.

She had great grades and kept them up, all while becoming an incredible basketball up there. She was president of school spirit, on Student Council. She was directors assistant for her school play just like her big sister. She was looking forward to graduating eighth grade, and moving on to high school with her big sister Natalia.

Kobe and wife Vanessa during the Oscar awards

I’m so happy she was given the opportunity to know that she was accepted to the same high school, she was really happy Gianna made us all proud, and she still does. Gianna never tried to conform. She was always herself. She was a nice person, a leader, a teacher, wearing a white tee, black leggings, a denim jacket, white high top Converse, and a flannel tied around her waist with straight hair was a go-to style.

She has so much swag and rhythm ever since she was a baby. She gave the best hugs and the best kisses. She had gorgeous soft lips like her daddy. she would hug me and hold me so tight. I could feel her love me and loved the way she looked up at me while hugging me. It was as if she was soaking me all in. We love each other so much, I miss her so much. She was so energetic. I couldn’t keep up with her energy.

She lapped Natalia and I on a track when she was about six years old. We let her have a head start. She still dusted us.

I miss her sweet kisses. I miss her cleverness. I miss her sarcasm. Her wit, and that adorable sly side smile followed with a grin and a burst of laughter. We shared the same cat that ate the canary grin. Gigi was sunshine. She brightens up my day. Every day I was looking at her beautiful face. She was always so good, a rule follower.

I knew I could always count on her to do the right thing. She was the most loving daughter, thoughtful little sister, and silly big sister. She happily helped carry the little diaper bag or played with them, she liked helping me with Bianca and Capri. Bianca loved going to the playground swimming and jumping on the trampoline with Gigi.

I used to tell Gigi that I thought Coco considered her her favorite sister. Capri would smile from ear to ear when Gigi walked into the room and Capri reminds me a lot of Gianna. They look alike and could just smile with their whole face. Pure joy. We will not be able to see Gigi go to high school with Natalia, and ask her how her day went. We didn’t get the chance to teach her how to drive a car.

I won’t be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I’ll never get to see my babygirl walk down the aisle, have a father daughter dance with her daddy. Dance on the dance floor with me or have babies of her own. Gianna would have been an amazing mommy. She was very maternal ever since she was really little. Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA.

She would have made a huge difference for women’s basketball. Gigi was motivated to change the way everyone viewed women in sports. She wrote papers in school defending women and wrote about how the unequal pay difference for the NBA and the WNBA leagues wasn’t fair.

And I truly feel she made positive changes for the WNBA players now, since they knew Gigi’s goal was to eventually play the WNBA. I’m still so proud of Gianna. She made a difference and was kind to everyone she met and the 13 years she was here on Earth. Her classmates shared many fond memories about Gianna with us, and those stories reminded me that Gianna loved and showed everyone that no act of kindness is ever too small to make a difference in someone’s life.

She was always, always, always, always considered of others and their feelings. She was a beautiful, kind, happy, silly, thoughtful, loving daughter and sister. She was so full of life, and has so much more to offer this world. I cannot imagine life without her. Mommy Natalia, Bianca, Capri, and daddy love you so much Gigi. I will miss your sweet handmade cards. Your sweet kisses and your gorgeous smile. I miss you, all of you, every day. I love you.
Okay. Now for my soulmate. Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court. The greatest of all time, a writer and Oscar winner, and the Black Mamba. But to me, he was Kobe-Kobe, my boo-boo, my bae-boo. My Papi chulo. I was his Vivi his Principesa, his reina, his Queen Mamba. and is the Friski-mineski, dabeli-ski.

I couldn’t see him as a celebrity, nor just an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband, and the beautiful father of our children. He was mine. He was my everything.

Kobe and I have been together since I was 17 and a half years old. I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant, and his protector. He was the most amazing husband. Kobe let me more than I could ever express or put into words. He was the early bird, and I was the night owl. I was fired he was ice and vice versa at times. We balanced each other out. He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe. He was charismatic, a gentleman. He was loving, adoring, and romantic. He was truly the romantic one in our relationship. I look forward to Valentine’s Day, and our anniversaries every year. He plans special anniversary trips, and a special traditional gift for every year of our marriage. He even hand made my most treasured gifts, he just thought outside the box it was so thoughtful, even while working hard to be the best athlete. He gifted me the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in The Notebook movie. When I asked him why he chose the blue dress, he said it was because its the scene of when Allie comes back to Noah. We had hoped to grow old together like the movie. We really had an amazing love story. We loved each other with our whole beings. Two perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family, and raising our sweet and amazing girls.

A couple of weeks before they passed, Kobe sent me a sweet text. I mentioned how he wanted to spend time together. Just the two of us without our kids, because I’m his best friend first. We never got the chance to do it. We were busy taking care of our girls and just doing our regular, everyday responsibilities. But I’m thankful I have that recent text. It means so much to me. Kobe wanted us to renew our vows. He wanted Natalia to take over his company, and he wanted to travel the world together. We always talked about how we would be the fun grandparents to our daughter’s children. He would have been the coolest grandpa.

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 and how to keep pushing forward when things get tough. And when Kobe retired from the NBA. He took over dropping off and picking up our girls from school since I was at home pregnant with Bianca and just recently home nursing Capri.

When Kobe was still playing, I used to show up an hour early to be the first in line to pick up Natalia and Gianna from school, and I told him he couldn’t drop the ball once he took over. He was late one time. And we most definitely let him know that I was never late. So he showed up one hour, and 20 minutes early after that.

He always knew there was room for improvement, and wanted to do better. He happily did carpool and enjoyed spending time in the car with our girls. He was a doting father, a father that was hands on and present. He helped me bathe Bianca and Capri almost every night. He would sing the silly songs in the shower and continue making them laugh and smile as he lathered them with lotion and got them ready for bed. He had magic arms that could put a period of sleep and only a few minutes. He said he had it down to a science, eight times up and down our hallway.

He loved taking Bianca to Fashion Island to watch her play in the koi pond area, and love taking her to park. Their most recent visit to the koi pond was the evening before he and Gigi passed. He shared a love of movies and the breakdown of films with Natalia. He enjoyed renting out theaters and taking Natalia to watch the newest Star Wars movie or Harry Potter films. And they would have movie marathons and he enjoyed every second of it. He loved your typical tear jerkers too. He liked watching Step Mom, Steel Magnolias and Little Women. He had a tender heart.

Kobe somehow knew where I was at all times, specifically when I was late to his games. He would worry about me if I wasn’t in my seat at the start of each game, I would ask security where I was at the first time out of the first quarter. And my smart ass would tell him that he wasn’t going to drop 81 points within the first 10 minutes of the game. I think anyone with kids understand that sometimes we can’t make it out the door on time. And eventually he was used to my tardiness and ball’ed out. The fact that he could play on an intense professional level and still be concerned by making sure we made it to the game safely was just another example of how family came first to him.

He loved being Gianna’s basketball coach. He told me he wished he would have convinced Natalia to play basketball, so they could have spent even more time together. But he also wanted her to pursue her own passion. He watched Natalia play a volleyball tournament on her birthday, on January 19. And he noticed how she’s a very intelligent player. He was convinced she would made a great point guard with her vision of the court. And he told me that he wanted Bianca and Capri to take a basketball, when they get older, so he could spend just as much time with them, as he did with Gigi. And Kobe always told Bianca and Capri that they were going to grow up and play basketball and ‘mix they ass up.’ Now they won’t have their daddy and sister here to teach them, and that is truly a loss, I do not understand.

But I’m so thankful Kobe heard Coco say dada. He isn’t going to be here to drop Bianca and Capri off at pre K or kindergarten. He isn’t going to be here to tell me to get a grip V, when we have to leave the kindergarten classroom. Or show up to our daughters doctor’s visits for my own moral support. He isn’t going to be able to walk our girls down the aisle or spinning around the dance floor was singing “PYT” to me. But I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband, and father he was. The kind of man that wanted to teach the future generations to be better, and keep them from making his own mistakes. He always liked working and doing projects to improve kids lives. He taught us all valuable lessons about life and sports through his NBA career. His books, his show Detail and his Punies podcast series. And we’re so thankful he left those lessons and stories behind for us.

He was thoughtful and wrote the best love letters and cards and Gigi had this wonderful ability to express her feelings in her papers and make you feel her love through her words. She was thoughtful like him. They were so easy to love. Everyone naturally gravitated towards 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 Heaven together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi. And I got Nani, BB, and Coco. We are still the best team.

We love and miss you booboo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace, and have fun and have fun in Heaven. Until we meet again one day. We love you both, and miss you. Forever and always, Mommy.”

In his tribute, fellow NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, who was Kobe’s teammate while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2004, gave a touching narratives of how he and Kobe pushed each other through thick and thin.

He said, “Yes, like sometimes immature kids we argued, we fought, we bantered or insulted each other with offhand remarks.”

“But make no mistake, even when folks thought we were on bad terms, when the cameras were turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other and say, ‘Let’s go whip some a**.’ We never took it seriously. In truth, Kobe and I always maintained a deep respect and a love for one another.”

“Mamba, you were taken away from us too soon,” he added.

“Your next chapter of life was just beginning. Now it is time for us to continue your legacy. You said yourself that everything negative — pressure, challenges — it’s all an opportunity for me to rise. So I now take that advice and now rise from anguish and begin with the healing. Just know that we’ve got your back, little brother.”

In conclusion, he said, “Kobe, you’re heaven’s MVP… “I love you, my man. Until we meet again.”

Michael Jordan helping Vanessa Bryant off stage at the memory

Another NBA legend, Michael Jordan could not hold back his tears, eulogized Kobe, describing him as a little brother to him.

“You know, all of us have brothers, sisters, little brothers, little sisters for whatever reason always tend to get in your stuff, your closet, your shoes, everything. It was a nuisance if I can say that word but that nuisance turned into love over time,” Jordan said.

Kobe and Jordan during their playing days

Adding that, Kobe often times sent him text messages asking about post-up moves, footwork and sometimes the triangle offense.

“At first, it was an aggravation, but then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know. It’s an amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you will go to the extreme to try to understand or try to get it.”

“He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be. As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be,” Jordan said.

Alicia Keys took the stage to perform one of Kobe and Gigi’s favorite musical numbers, the Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 14,” commonly known as the “Moonlight Sonata.”

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel fought back tears as he spoke about Kobe and his family.

“I can only imagine how painful this is for them. I don’t think any of us could have imagined this. Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number, Gigi’s face, Gigi’s number, everywhere, at every intersection,” he said.

“I have been trying to come up with something positive to take away. It was hard because it wasn’t much. The best thing I was able to come up with is gratitude. It seems to me all we can do be grateful for the time we had with them and for the time we have left with each other.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabar chats with Kobe

Notable personalities, NBA legends as well as basketball stars who were in attendance at the memorial but not limited to, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Bill Russell, Sabrina Ionescu, Diana Taurasi, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Anthony Davis, Dwyane Wade.

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