Vanessa Bryant fought back tears as she paid loving tribute to her late husband, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, and her 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, at an emotional memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday.
She began by mourning the loss of her "baby girl," Gianna, whom she remembered as a "sweet and gentle soul" who was vivacious, energetic, fiercely intelligent and athletically gifted — a women's basketball powerhouse in the making who gave amazing hugs and kisses to her family, her mother recounted.
"Gigi was sunshine," Vanessa Bryant said, using her daughter's nickname. "She brightened up my day every day."
She then eulogized her husband, whom she described as a soulful romantic who once gifted her with the blue dress and namesake notebook from the movie "The Notebook" and with whom she hoped to grow old. She recalled that Kobe, a man with a "tender heart," adored tear-jerking romantic comedies and movie nights with his family.
Vanessa also praised him as a doting father, unfailingly devoted to his children and present in their daily lives.
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"Family came first to him," she said, explaining that he loved being Gianna's mentor on the basketball court. She lamented that he would not be there to drop off their children at school or walk them down the aisle on their wedding days.
"He was thoughtful and wrote the best love letters and cards," she said, noting that Gianna had the same gift for putting her love into words.
"They were funny, happy, silly and they loved life," she said, adding: "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."