Mamba Out

By Terrance Turner

Vanessa Bryant speaks during a public memorial for her husband and daughter on Feb. 24. (Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times)

Today is a dark day. It was also kind of chaotic — one of those days where everything seems to be happening at once, where stories break simultaneously and headlines swirl around you like leaves in a storm. I did not want to write this. But I would be remiss if I didn’t cover one of the most important stories of the day: the public memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant. There were several speeches and even performances. But the central figure, for me and surely many others, was Vanessa Bryant. I cannot imagine the pain of losing your husband and daughter on the same day — especially when you also have to raise an 8-month-old daughter. I can’t fathom the horror of having to bury them both with the eyes of the whole world on you. And I hope I never understand what it feels like to eulogize them both in the stadium where your husband spent his incredible career.

Today is a dark day. But it was also oddly prophetic. As the New York Times pointed out, thousands of people gathered in L.A.’s Staples Center “on a date — 2-24-20 — replete with symbols: Gianna wore No. 2, Kobe wore No. 24, he played for Los Angeles for 20 seasons, and he and Vanessa Bryant were a couple for 20 years.”

I did not watch a single moment of the memorial that began this Monday morning. My heart is too heavy, my hands too busy, my head too dizzy with a slew of today’s headlines. But I did read CNN’s transcript of Mrs. Bryant’s remarks, which honored the 41-year-old husband and 13-year-old daughter she lost last month. Here is some of what she said:

My baby girl. Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was very thoughtful and always kissed me good night and kissed me good morning. There were a few occasions where I was absolutely tired from being up with Bianka and Capri, and i thought she had left to school without saying goodbye. I text and say, “No kiss?” And Gianna would reply with, “Mama, I kissed you. 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 loved her mama, and she would always show me and tell me that she loved me. She was one of my very best friends.

She loved to bake. She loved putting a smile on everyone’s face. Last August she made a beautiful birthday cake for her daddy, and it had fondant and looked like it had blue agate crystals. Kobe’s birthday cake looked 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 on TNT” with her daddy. She also loved watching Disney movies with her sisters.

Gigi was very competitive like her daddy, but she had a sweet grace about her. Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face, like mine […] I am still so proud of Gianna, and she was kind to everybody she met for the 13 years she was here on Earth. Her classmates shared many fond stories 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 considerate of others and their feelings. She was a beautiful, kind, happy, silly, thoughtful and loving sister and daughter. She was so full of life and had so much more to offer this world. I cannot imagine life without her. Mommy, Natalia, Bianka, 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.

Vanessa Bryant

Then, in the second half of a speech that must have been excruciating to deliver, Mrs. Bryant remembered her husband. Excerpted below:

Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court. The greatest of all time, a writer, an Oscar winner and the Black Mamba. But to me he was KobKob […]

I couldn’t see him as a celebrity nor just an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of my 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 loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. He was the early bird and I was the night owl, I was fire and 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 and adoring and romantic. He was truly the romantic one in our relationship. I looked forward to Valentine’s Day and our anniversaries every year. He planned special anniversary trips and a special traditional gift for every year of our marriage. He even handmade my most treasured gifts. He just thought outside the box and was so thoughtful even while working hard to be the best athlete. He gave to 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 because it was the scene 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 raising a beautiful family and our sweet and amazing girls.

A couple weeks before they passed Kobe sent me a sweet text and mentioned how he wanted to spend time together, just the two of us, without our kids, because I am 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 talked about how we would be the fun grandparents to our daughters’ 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. 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 Bianka and just recently home nursing Capri […] He was thoughtful and always wrote the best love letters and cards, and Gigi had his wonderful ability to express her feelings into paper and make you feel her love through his words. She was thoughtful like him. They were so easy to love. Everybody 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 have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nati, BiBi and Coco, and we’re still the best team.

Vanessa Bryant

I pray that Vanessa Bryant finds peace. I pray she finds comfort in the fact that the whole world seems to wish her and her family well. I pray she finds the strength to face what will surely be difficult days ahead. And if there is any negligence or misconduct connected to the helicopter crash that has caused her such unimaginable loss, I hope she finds justice.

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