Kobe Bryant was heralded as “the MVP of girl dads” by Vanessa Bryant as she emotionally remembered her late husband at his memorial on Monday night. The Los Angeles Lakers legend’s service was held at the team’s Staples Center, which was packed to the rafters.
Over 88,000 people applied for tickets to the memorial within the first five hours of release, with a limited allocation available to the general public.
Many waited outside as friends, family and key figures of the NBA community watched Vanessa emotionally open up on the heartache of losing her husband.
Kobe Bryant died along with his daughter Gianna and seven others on January 26 when a helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in Calabasas.
The Black Mamba, as he became known for his modus operandi on the court, won five NBA championships and was named the league’s MVP in 2008.
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But Vanessa referred to him as the “the MVP of girl dads” on Monday as she paid homage to the basketball hero.
Kobe was survived by Vanessa and his other daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
Gianna was 13 years old when she passed away and was tipped to go on to become one of the best WNBA players of her generation.
She had aspirations to play for the University of Connecticut and a video of her discussing basketball tactics with her father ringside circulated on social media before their tragic deaths.
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“Gigi was sunshine. She brightened up my day everyday,” said Vanessa.
“She was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine.”
Vanessa and her three daughters were handed a standing ovation upon entering the 20,000-capacity stadium, which had masses of people waiting outside.
All proceeds from ticket sales will go towards the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which was founded after Kobe and Gianna’s death.
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The date of the memorial – 2/24 on American calendars – held symbolic value in that Bryant wore No 24 in the twilight of his career while Gianna donned the No 2 jersey in youth matches.
The likes of LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, Dwayne Wade, Doc Rivers, Steph Curry and Bill Russell were reportedly in attendance, and Michael Jordan also spoke later in the evening.
Vanessa shared the heartbreak she has endured over the last month in an Instagram post two weeks ago.
“I’ve been reluctant to put my feelings into words,” she wrote. “My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone. I can’t process both at the same time.
“It’s like I’m trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me.
“It feels wrong. Why should I be able to wake up another day when my baby girl isn’t being able to have that opportunity?! I’m so mad. She had so much life to live.
“Then I realize I need to be strong and be here for my 3 daughters. Mad I’m not with Kobe and Gigi but thankful I’m here with Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
“I know what I’m feeling is normal. It’s part of the grieving process. I just wanted to share in case there’s anyone out there that’s experienced a loss like this.
“God I wish they were here and this nightmare would be over. Praying for all of the victims of this horrible tragedy. Please continue to pray for all.”
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