The emotional speech delivered by Vanessa Bryant yesterday as part of the Kobe Bryant Celebration of Life on Monday was reportedly not guaranteed to happen. A source told E! News that prior to Bryant taking the stage, Jimmy Kimmel was apparently given a "signal" as to whether or not she'd speak in front of the Staples Center crowd. They also said that "Vanessa Bryant's speech was always tentative until the very last minute."
"She, of course, was prepared with her speech either way, but keeping her tentative was a matter of how emotional she was and how comfortable she felt in that moment to make the speech," the source continued. "Nobody knew if she was going to do it until [Jimmy] actually announced her."
Kimmel was given the signal during a slideshow of Kobe Bryant, after which she took the stage and spoke from the heart about her lifelong love affair with the NBA star.
"Kobe and I had been together since I was 17.5 years old," Bryant told the crowd. "I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidante and his protector. He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words."
She also spoke about her daughter, Gianna, who was killed along with her father and seven other people in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, CA on Jan. 26.
"We love you so much, Gigi," Bryant continued. "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."
You can watch the entirety of Bryant's speech here.
The Celebration of Life featured a number of heartfelt tributes to both Kobe Bryant and his daughter, including a tearful memorial from Michael Jordan, who affectionately referred to Bryant as his "little brother."0comments
"In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor. Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends, but we were very close friends. Kobe was my dear friend. He was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe."
The tributes to Bryant weren't limited to the Staples Center, either. During the Celebration of Life, Niagara Falls lit up in purple in gold as a remembrance of Bryant's legendary tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers.