There are many celebrity stories to share right, including the Grammy Awards, but even at the normally festive event, the mood was somber as the world struggled to come to grips with the loss of Kobe Bryant and his beautiful daughter, Gianna. The NBA superstar, his daughter, and seven others were tragically killed in a helicopter crash yesterday morning in California.
Of course, none of our grief can compare to what his wife, Vanessa Bryant, must be going through. We may have lost a global icon, but she’s lost a husband and a father for their surviving three children. More than anything else, let’s take a moment and send a little love and healing energy her way.
Til Death Do Us Part
Kobe and Vanessa were just 22 and 18 years old, respectively, when they tied the knot in 2001. They remained married until his untimely death, and like most couples, they saw a lot of highs and some serious lows.
In 2003, they welcomed daughter, Natalia. That same year, Kobe was accused of allegedly raping a 19-year-old Colorado resort employee. Ultimately, after the accuser refused to testify, the charges were dropped. The case was then settled out of court. Through it all, Vanessa stood by her husband—even after he described the encounter as an act of consensual infidelity.
Days after his arrest, Vanessa was spotted wearing an 8-carat purple diamond ring (worth about $4 million). He addressed the situation through a press conference where he said: “I sit here in front of you guys, furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery. And I love my wife with all my heart.”
It seemed that the pair were willing to work through their issues, and the growing family was joined by Gianna “Gigi” in 2006. For several years, things seemed relatively stable until Vanessa filed for divorce after 10 years of marriage.
Citing irreconcilable differences, she sought spousal support and shared custody of their two daughters who were just eight and five at the time. By 2013, Kobe and Vanessa reconciled and ended the divorce proceedings.
We’re guessing things improved between them as they welcomed their third daughter, Bianka, in 2016. Their fourth child, Capri, was born in 2019. With a sweet baby still on her hip and two older daughters to watch over, Vanessa Bryant has a lot to live for—but after nearly 20 years of marriage, losing her husband and one of their beloved children must be devastating.
A Hands On Father
By all accounts, people who knew the Bryants referred to Kobe as being all about his family. As a friend told People magazine: “One of the biggest things he was looking forward to after retiring from the NBA [in 2016] was getting to spend more time with his family. He was a very hands-on dad and, like any other father, saw such bright futures for all of his daughters. He was so proud to see them take after not only him and Vanessa, but also grow into their own. He had a special bond with each of his daughters.”
Derek Jeter remembered Kobe in an essay written for the Players’ Tribune. “All I ever needed to know about Kobe Bryant was this: that throughout our friendship, the most meaningful conversations we had—they were always about family,” Jeter reflected. “Tragedies like this have a cruel way of reminding us of what’s important in life: spending time with our loved ones, and being there for them no matter what. Which makes today’s events feel especially cruel—because no one needed less reminding than Kobe.”
During a conversation with Alex Rodriguez for Barstool Sports podcast The Corp with A-Rod and Big Cat, Kobe explained that sitting in Los Angeles traffic made him miss out on spending time with his kids. As a result, he started using a chartered helicopter to commute around the city. He and Vanessa made a pact to never travel together in the same helicopter in case something went wrong.
A Truly Tragic End
At 9:06 AM on January 26, 2020, a Sikorsky S-76 chopper departed Orange County’s John Wayne Airport. It passed over Boyle Heights near Dodger Stadium and circled over Glendale. Witnesses say they heard a roar before it crashed. Firefighters responded to a 9-11 call at 9:47 AM. They found debris and brush fire in steep terrain, but determined there were no survivors.
Details are still emerging, but initial reports suggest that bad weather played a role in this horrific and senseless accident. The pilot was flying in conditions that were worse than those allowed for standard procedure, and at one point, he asked for assistance navigating the helicopter. After the tower is heard telling him that the chopper is too low, the conversation ends.
Kobe Bryant was on his way to coach his daughter’s game against the Fresno Lady Heat at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. The tournament, called the Mamba Cup, included both boys’ and girls’ teams from fourth through eighth grades.
Kobe was very supportive of his daughter’s budding basketball career. During an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live he also shared that she was ready to step into his shoes: “[Gianna] will be standing next to me, and [fans] will be like, ‘You gotta have a boy. You and [wife Vanessa] gotta have a boy, you gotta have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh! I got this. Don’t need no boy for that! I got this.'”
Along with Kobe and Gianna Bryant, the following people lost their lives in that helicopter crash:
- Sarah Chester, who is survived by her husband Chris, and their sons Hayden and Riley.
- Payton Chester, daughter of Sarah Chester and teammate of Gianna Bryant.
- Christina Mauser, girls basketball coach who is survived by husband Matt and their three small children.
- John Altobelli, head baseball coach at Orange Coast College.
- Keri Altobelli, wife of John Altobelli. The couple are survived by son, JJ, and daughter, Alexis.
- Alyssa Altobelli, daughter of John and Keri and teammate of Gianna Bryant.
- Ara Zobayan, helicopter pilot.
A few years back, Kobe was asked about his views on death during an interview with The Ringer. He was very calm in his response and described his relationship with death as “a comfortable one.” He went on to add: “It’s an understanding that you can’t have life without death, can’t have light without the dark, right? So it’s an acceptance of that.”
We send our warmest thoughts and deepest sympathies to Vanessa Bryant, their daughters Natalia, Bianka, and Capri as well as all of their loved ones. May they find peace during this very difficult time.