Since being chosen in the 1996 draft and becoming the second-youngest player in NBA history, Kobe Bryant has been synonymous with basketball. But since retiring in 2016 as a five-time NBA champ with 20 seasons under his belt, a different side of Bryant came to the forefront: the family man. And in the wake of the tragic helicopter crash that killed Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (as well as seven others), it’s that legacy those closest to the NBA star say he’d be the most proud of.
On Sunday, Jan. 26, the devastating news broke that Bryant’s private helicopter had gone down in the Calabasas, California, area while en route to a travel basketball game for Gianna’s team. While Bryant’s life in the public spotlight has at times been complicated, the reaction to his and his daughter’s untimely passing was swift and overwhelming.
And countless fans, in paying tribute to Kobe, are celebrating the special relationship he had with his family: wife Vanessa, 37, and daughters Natalia, 17, Gianna, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months. So, in honor of the legacy that Kobe was understandably most proud to be building, let’s relive some of the sweet moments he shared with and about his beautiful family.
His Biggest Little Fan, All Grown Up
On Jan. 19, Kobe posted a precious throwback picture of Natalia wearing “his” jersey: the now-iconic No. 24. The same day, he shared a current photo of the gorgeous teen in honor of her 17th birthday. “Happy Birthday my baby. I love you beyond measure. You will always be my little Principessa,” the proud dad wrote.
For Bianka’s Birthday
When his second youngest turned three, Kobe shared a precious snapshot of the little girl on his shoulders. “Happy birthday B.B.,” he wrote, gushing, “Can’t believe you are 3 already! We love you little mamacita.”
A Day of Gratitude
Kobe took to Instagram on Thanksgiving to share a few photos of what she was most thankful for — all of his girls.
Two Decades of Love
In a post that will break your heart wide open for Vanessa, Kobe threw it way back. “On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant,” he captioned a throwback photo followed by this year’s anniversary pic. “I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4 princesses). I love you my mamacita per sempre.”
It may technically have been the winter, but living in Southern California meant Kobe was able to squeeze in pool days with his adorable toddler during his downtime.
Off to See the Wizard
Our hearts! How precious is this family photo of Kobe and his crew on Halloween? They really leaned into the Wizard of Oz theme with Vanessa as the Wicked Witch, Kobe as the Wizard himself, Gigi as the Tin Man, Bianka as Dorothy and baby Capri as the Cowardly Lion.
Book Signing Buddies
In his retirement, Kobe pursued a more creative pursuit: storytelling. At his book-signing for the inspirational book Legacy and the Queen, Vanessa surprised him by bringing Bianka and Capri to cheer him on.
Those Disney Days
We’re not sure who enjoyed frequenting Disneyland more — Kobe or his girls. But this much is certain: the doting dad loved to spend time with his daughters at the happiest place on earth.
While on vacation, Kobe stole a quiet minute for a selfie with Vanessa. “Mamba and Queen,” he captioned it, alluding to his nickname (Black Mamba) and his pet name for his wife.
Family Time in Support of Female Athletes
Back in August, Kobe gave a shout out to the US Women’s National Soccer Team after spending a day watching them with three of his daughters
Waiting on No. 4
It’s hard to believe that a short 8 months ago, Kobe and Vanessa were patiently waiting for their fourth “princess” to make her debut.
In honor of their 18th birthday, Kobe shared a breathtaking portrait of him and Vanessa in front of the scenic backdrop of the sea.
Daddy-Daughter Night Out
When Kobe headed to the University of Connecticut women’s basketball senior night, he had the best plus one: daughter Gigi. The two attended the game together to celebrate the career (and retirement) of legendary WNBA’er Rebecca Lobo.
From Oscar Winners to Burger Eaters
In a charming behind-the-scenes comparison last February, Kobe shared that he and Vanessa went from winning an Oscar in 2018 — to eating In N’ Out at the 2019 Oscars and celebrating everyone else’s wins.
Their Very Own Adventure
Not only did Vanessa and Kobe often sneak away for Disneyland date nights, but they obviously were also fans of one of the greatest Disney love stories ever — Carl and Ellie’s from Up.
Date Night With Lauryn Hill
In September 2018, Kobe revealed that Vanessa gave him the best date-night surprise: seeing Lauryn Hill perform at The Hollywood Bowl.
QT in Cabo
What better way to bring in your 40th year than with a trip to Cabo with your family? Kobe clearly had the right idea when he sprung this vacation on his wife and daughters.
Our hearts go out to Vanessa and the girls, as well as the families of all those lost in the crash.