A memorial service honoring Kobe Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, is being held at the Staples Center, aka “The House that Kobe Built,” on February 24. With the blessing of wife and mother Vanessa Bryant, who named the event “A Celebration of Life,” the ceremony will also honor the seven other victims who died in the tragic helicopter crash on January 26.
The sold-out memorial is set to kick off at 10 a.m. PT, with all ticket proceeds going to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation. The guest list of notable speakers and performers was kept under wraps until Monday’s service, but it was largely expected that Vanessa and her family would be present.
In addition to Kobe’s wife of nearly 20 years, the 20,000 attendees believed Vanessa would bring along her three children, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 8 months. It is also believed her mother, Sofia Laine, and sister, Sophie Laine, will be there for moral support, as well as Kobe’s two older sisters, Shaya and Sharia Bryant, with whom she remains close.
Not expected to show up is Vanessa’s biological father, who hasn’t been part of her life since she was a young child, or her ex-stepfather, Stephen Laine, whom her mother divorced in 2002. Despite their long estrangement, following the tragedy, Laine told The Sun, “I just found out and can’t say much, just that I wish the family well. I just heard on the news that Gianna died as well. It’s terrible. My heart goes out to Vanessa and the kids.”
Vanessa and Stephen used to be close. While no one from Kobe’s family attended their wedding at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point, California, Stephen was one of the 12 guests at the ceremony in 2001. When Laine asked his teenage daughter why Kobe wasn’t signing a prenup, he told The Los Angeles Times that “she just came home one day and said something to the effect that Kobe didn’t want a prenup — that he loved her too much.”
Vanessa was just 3 years old, and Sophie 13, when her mother divorced her biological father. When Sofia remarried to Stephen Laine in 1990, they appeared to be one blended happy family throughout the following decade. Even though Laine never officially adopted Vanessa and Sophie, they legally changed their last name to match that of their stepfather.
During Kobe’s Rape Trial, Vanessa’s Parents Went Through a Nasty Divorce
After nearly 13 years of marriage, Vanessa and Sophie’s mother and stepfather split. It was a tumultuous time in Vanessa’s life, as Kobe was going through his very public rape trial in 2003. Despite her own turmoil, Sofia Laine continued to have her daughter’s back. She told reporters “We keep to ourselves, and those who want to talk can talk. The people who say negative things, God will take care of them.”
Court documents obtained by the New York Post indicated Laine and Sophia officially separated in 2002, and a month later Vanessa’s mom filed for divorce. She stated, “In June 2002, I learned that Stephen was involved in another relationship. We separated.”
Laine’s lawyer Glen Rabenn neither confirmed or denied the adultery claims. “It’s irrelevant anyway,” he said.
Sophia Laine sought spousal support following the divorce, citing that she would no longer be receiving financial help from her daughter and Kobe. Vanessa stated in court documents that “while I have been fortunate enough to be able, occasionally, to help my mother financially, I do not intend on supporting my mother with monthly continual and/or consistent gifts.”
Prior to her statement, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant gave her mother a $120,000 retirement nest egg, a $90,000 Mercedes-Benz and $50,000 in furniture.
Stephen Laine Told Reporters Vanessa & Her Mother Were Money Hungry Divorcées In 2011
When Vanessa and Kobe seemed to be headed toward divorce in 2011, Laine had some choice words for his now-estranged stepdaughter. Laine told TMZ, “Her mother taught her well to wait for the 10-year mark [before divorcing]. In California, it’s considered a long term marriage and then she gets paid for life or until she remarries … just like her mother is doing to me. I have to pay her mom $1,800 every month and clearly, they don’t need it” — referring to how rich Vanessa and her mother would be if the divorce with Kobe proceeded.
Laine, who has since started a new family, said, “I have a six-year-old daughter and that money could be used toward her college fund or something … you’d think she’d care … but no, she’s spiteful.”