Just hours ahead of the celebration of life for Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant, Kobe's wife Vanessa Bryant took to Instagram to reveal a tattoo that U.S. soccer star Sydney Leroux got in honor of Kobe and Vanessa's 13-year-old daughter who died alongside Kobe and seven others in a helicopter crash last month. The tattoo was a simple No. 2, Gianna's basketball number, done in block lettering.
Leroux, who is an Olympic gold medalist and a forward for the Orlando Pride, also sports the number 2 on her own jersey.
"#2, Leroux. Thank you for honoring my Gigi. I love you [Sydney Leroux]," Vanessa captioned the image.
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Leroux, who first connected with the Bryant family years ago because the Bryant daughters were fans of the soccer player, posted multiple tributes to Kobe and Gianna after their sudden deaths.
"Gigi you were a star. Your dad told me that you were going to be better than he was. You had the gift no matter what you were playing," Leroux wrote on Instagram in a tribute in January. "I know you'll be looking down on your mom and your sisters with your big smile while shooting hoops with your dad, doing what you both love. 2 will always be ours.
She continued, "Kobe - thank you for allowing me in to your beautiful family. Thank you for believing in me. Being there for me during the good times and the tough ones. For your crazy book recommendations and your quotes. For helping me write. For teaching me to never soften for anybody. For teaching me about the darkness and the light and the villains becoming the heroes. I won't forget any of it. I'll miss you."
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In another tribute, Leroux wrote that she wasn't sure she'd ever cried in front of her kids, "but last week I couldn't help it. I held them close. One on each lap. My hands were full but my heart wasn't."
"You think you have all of this time with people and then you don't. And it really really hurts and then you're okay. And you're only okay because you forgot that it's real for a minute. It comes in these huge waves and I haven't learned how to swim through them yet. But I look back and I remember when the going was tough; what he said to me... 'Figure it out. No other option.' And so I will. So we will."
Leroux told Fox Sports in 2014 that Kobe quickly became her go-to person for questions about navigating life as a professional athlete. "I get to pick his brain on how he became who he was and what it took to get there," she said at the time. "We have a really cool relationship. I look up to him so much as an athlete and a person. I think he sees something in me. He knows my story and how I grew up and what it took to get here and I think that a big part of him really respects that."
Vanessa's reveal of Leroux's tattoo drew many emotional reactions on social media. "We love you Queen Mamba," one Instagram user wrote.
"Thinking of you today and every day," another said.0comments
"God bless," another said.
A celebration of life public memorial will be held for both Kobe and Gianna at the Staples Center Monday at 10 a.m. PT. The service will be live-streamed so even those who weren't able to buy tickets can follow along. Click here for more info.