The love story of Vanessa Bryant and her husband Kobe was an enduring one. In fact, the NBA star began dating Vanessa when she was still in high school.
That led to scenes in the late 1990s that many may recall as a media crush descended on Vanessa’s school. How and when they met is an interesting story that dates back to 1999.
There’s no question that the Vanessa and Kobe relationship also had its ups and downs. She filed for divorce once. She stood at his side when he was accused of sexual assault (charges were dismissed). But she also bore him four children (one who tragically died in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe.)
And her first words after the tragedy demonstrated a deep love.
Vanessa was not on the doomed helicopter that crashed into a Calabasas, California hillside, killing Kobe, their 13 year old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people (you can see a roundup of victims here.)
Since 1999, Vanessa was at Kobe’s side. He referred to her as “my star.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Their First Date Was at Disneyland & They Met When She Was a Back up Dancer on a Snoop Dogg Video Shoot
Kobe and Vanessa Bryant went on their first date in 1999 – to Disneyland.
She was born on May 5, 1982. Thus, she’s been with Kobe since her teens. When they met, Vanessa a backup dancer at a Snoop Dogg video shoot, according to Daily Beast.
The Los Angeles Times described how Kobe had revealed that he was engaged to a high school student, and “television news crews descended upon Marina High School in Huntington Beach” where Vanessa was a senior.
At first, they did not find complete acceptance in his family.
2. Vanessa Spoke of Great Love for Kobe in Her First Comment After His Death
A heartbroken Vanessa took to Instagram to share her feelings after Kobe and Gianna died.
“My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri,” she wrote.
“We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately.
There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”
The heartbreaking post continued, “I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality.”
She concluded with this: “To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️.”
3. Kobe Proposed Six Months After Meeting Vanessa, But His Family Did not Attend the Wedding
Kobe’s family wasn’t entirely settled on Vanessa, at least at first. There was the matter of her age. There was also the matter of his age and, he once said, their different ethnic backgrounds.
According to EOnline, Vanessa was a “17-year-old Latina model” when they met, and Kobe asked her to marry him just six months later. She was 18 when they wed.
However, EOnline reported that Kobe’s family didn’t make the nuptials because they thought he was too young. Vanessa is half Mexican and half Irish in ancestry, the site reports. According to the Los Angeles Times, they were married at a Catholic church in Dana Point in April 2001. Kobe claimed his parents were unhappy because Vanessa was part-Latina, the newspaper reported.
They didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement.
4. Vanessa Once Filed for Divorce But Took It Back
The couple’s relationship wasn’t always smooth sailing. According to Daily Beast, Vanessa filed for divorce in 2011 after being married to Kobe for 10 years.
The reason: irreconcilable differences. However, Daily Beast reported that speculation about Kobe’s possible extramarital affairs, including with a Playboy model and reality TV show producer, may have affected Vanessa’s decision.
Of course, years before that, in 2003, Kobe was accused of sexual assault, but the charges were drooped because the accuser wouldn’t testify; Bryant denied those accusations, and Vanessa stood steadfastly by him.
“You have to remember Kobe met Vanessa when she was like 16 or something,” says Fred Mwangaguhunga, editor of MediaTakeOut.com, told Daily Beast. “They’ve been together ever since. They have a lot of history together, both good and bad. I’m surprised she stayed when she could have walked away with more than $100 million. She must love him.”
In addition, according to The Los Angeles Times, Vanessa once accused Lakers forward Karl Malone of “acting inappropriately toward her at a game.” He denied it.
5. Vanessa Is the Mother of Kobe’s 4 Kids
Vanessa gave Kobe four children, including Gianna, the teenager who died with her dad in the helicopter crash. All of them are girls.
She gave birth to their first daughter, Natalia Diamante, in January 2003. That was around the time he was accused of sexual assault, but, according to The Times, he bought her an eight-carat purple diamond ring worth about $4 million to make it up to her.
She went on to also give birth to Bianka Bella, 3; and Capri Kobe, less than 1. You can learn more about all of Vanessa and Kobe’s kids here.
In an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show, Kobe movingly spoke about Gianna’s basketball prowess. In the video, Jimmy Kimmel asks: “You think your daughter might want to play in the WNBA?”
Kobe, beaming with pride, responded, “She does for sure. This kid, man.”
“Wouldn’t that be great?” Kimmel said.
“Dude, man, I’ll tell you. The best thing that happens is when we go out, and fans will come up to me, and she will be standing next to me, and they will be like, ‘Hey, you gotta have a boy, you and Vi gotta have a boy, man, someone to carry on the tradition and the legacy,’ and she goes, ‘I got this.’”
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