Kobe Bryant's parents, Joe and Pam Bryant, attended Monday's celebration of life memorial for the late Los Angeles Lakers legend and their granddaughter Gianna Bryant at the Staples Center. Bryant's relationship with his parents had its ups and downs, but the couple put those differences aside for Monday's emotional celebration. Joe — a former NBA player — and Pam watched on as Bryant's widow Vanessa Bryant delivered a heartbreaking speech.
Joe and Pam sat in the same row as Vanessa, who sat next to her mother Sofia. Vanessa sat next to her eldest daughter Natalia and her sister Sophie, reports Entertainment Tonight. At the beginning of the ceremony, Joe hugged Bryant's former teammate Shaquille O'Neal while videos from Gianna's life played on the jumbotron.
Vanessa received a standing ovation during her speech, which marked her first public comments (aside from social media posts) since Bryant and Gianna's deaths. She thanked everyone at the arena for their support over the past month and spoke of how Gianna hoped to blaze her own trail.
"Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul," Vanessa said of her 13-year-old daughter. "She was always thoughtful. She always kissed me goodnight 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 for school without saying goodbye. I text and say 'No kiss?' and Gianna would reply with, 'Mama, I kissed you but you were asleep and I didn't want to wake you.'"
"She knew how much her morning and evening kisses meant to me," Vanessa continued. "She was so thoughtful to remember to kiss me every day. She was Daddy's girl but I know she loved her mama. She would always tell me and show me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends. She loved faith, she loved putting a smile on everyone's faces."
Vanessa said she was sure Gianna, who everyone called "Gigi," would become the "best player" in the WNBA and would have drawn more attention to women's basketball.
When she later spoke of Bryant, she called him her "soulmate" and said she could never see him as a celebrity or a basketball player.
"He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children," Vanessa said. "He was my — he was my everything."
Bryant, 41, and Gianna died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 in Calabasas, California while on their way to the Mamba Sports Academy for a Sunday basketball tournament. The other victims were John and Keri Altobelli, their daughter Alyssa Altobelli; basketball coach Christina Mauser; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton; and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Bryant is survived by Vanessa and their three other daughters, Natalia, 17; Bianka, 3; and Capri, 8 months.Joe "Jellybean" Bryant played in the NBA from 1975 to 1983 and played in Europe from 1984 to 1992. He also coached professional basketball teams until 2015. He married Pam in 1975, and they are also parents to Bryant's older sisters Sharia and Shaya.
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