After the initial shock of Kobe Bryant and Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant’s deaths somewhat subsided, Vanessa Bryant – 37-year-old mother of four and partner to the basketball legend for more than 20 years – was the first person who came to mind.
The Lakers, Kobe Bryant’s home and work family for the entirety of his 20-year career, seemingly put a hold on releasing a public statement until Kobe’s lifelong partner did so first, a detail outlets like ESPN admired. Their sole response, aside from Coach Frank Vogel who gave his first press conference today and referred to the incident as “deeply saddening” – was to cancel Tuesday’s game.
Official statements by way of videos, Instagram posts and tweets from many who knew and loved them slowly rolled in throughout the 24 to 48 hours that followed. Not a single reasonable soul expected Vanessa to be one of them, and many on social media condemned outlets that attempted to impose.
Still, everyone flocked to her account when she once again made it public. In a matter of minutes, she gained more than 3 million followers. It seemed Vanessa was the first person to come to mind on Sunday for many others as well.
Vanessa’s first wordless public statement was simple and powerful. Her profile picture went from a beautiful black-and-white portrait of herself to an image of Gigi (as Gianna was lovingly known) and her father. That in itself was statement enough.
Vanessa and Kobe reportedly met in high school and loved each other since. The two got married in 2001. When they met, Vanessa was 17 years old. That being said, Vanessa has spent more of her life with Kobe in it than without.
On Wednesday evening, the grieving wife and mother took to Instagram to thank people for their prayers, support and outpouring of love. She also announced a foundation to honor and further Mamba and Mambacita’s legacy in youth sports and gave followers the opportunity to support the other families affected by this unthinkable tragedy. The Altobelli family, for example, lost three family members on Sunday. They are survived by an adult son and teenage daughter.
In her message, Vanessa made sure that everyone knew that the world didn’t just lose Gianna and Kobe that day; they also lost John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan.
Read Vanessa Bryant’s heartfelt message below: