Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss shared her own tribute to Kobe Bryant on Instagram Thursday, sharing a 2016 personal photo of herself with Bryant and his daughters. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died on Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The Hall of Famer spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, winning five NBA championships while Buss' father Jerry Buss owned the team.
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"Kobe, I don't know how to express what you mean to me, my family and the Los Angeles Lakers," Buss, 58, wrote. "My father loved you like a son, which makes us family."
Buss went on to share a story of how Bryant helped her following Jerry Buss' death in 2013.
"When you invited me to lunch shortly after my father passed away, I was struggling to find motivation and purpose," Buss wrote. "Kobe, you brought Gianna with you to spend some time with me. You explained that you wanted to show her that women can be leaders in the NBA, just like the men. At first, it seemed like an action of a devoted father setting an example for his daughter. But in actuality – and I am positively sure you knew EXACTLY what you were doing – what you did was give me the inspiration and strength I was searching for."
"I reflect on that day often and it makes me smile and it makes me strong," Buss continued. "I call on that memory whenever I feel down and need a bit of courage. For everything you did on the court that filled me with so much joy and love, for all the lives you changed through basketball itself, it was that day with Gigi that reignited my drive and determination."
Later, Buss sent her condolences directly to Bryant's wife Vanessa and their surviving daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
"I am so sorry for your loss," she wrote. "We are grateful to have you in our lives and we will always be here for you. To the families that also lost loved ones on Sunday, the entire Laker family mourns with you. Laker Nation - we are one family grieving the loss of people we all loved dearly. We will mourn together, cry together but we will also heal together, love together and win TOGETHER. We love you."
"Kobe - that's what you made you so unbelievably special. You not only inspired us towards greatness, you showed us the way," Buss concluded.
Buss noted that those who wish to help the families of the victims of the helicopter crash can go to MambaOnThree.org to make a donation.
The other victims of the crash were John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
The Lakers will play their first game since Bryant's death on Friday at the Staples Center, against the Portland Trail Blazers. The team was scheduled to play the Clippers Tuesday, but the game was postponed to a later date.
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