On Friday night, Kobe's team the Lakers emotionally remembered him at their basketball game in front of 20,000 fans. Kobe's number 24 jersey and Gianna's number two jersey, which she wore while playing on her father's Mamba Academy team, were placed over two empty courtside seats.
Vanessa shared a photo on Instagram that showed that tribute, writing, "There is no #24 without #2," referring to her late husband and his mini-me daughter's jersey numbers. Bouquets of red roses adorned the seats. Gianna was following in her famous dad's footsteps and on Sunday, January 26, when the helicopter went down, she and her father, 41, and friends were flying towards Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks. They were going to practice girls' basketball but never made it.
Vanessa Bryant’s post included three heart emojis as well as the hashtags "#GirlDaddy, #DaddysGirl, #MyBabies, #OurAngels, #KobeandGigi." Kobe's widow didn't attend the Lakers vs. Portland Trailblazers game on Friday night, but will receive some of the memorial items left by thousands of fans. Kobe and Gianna, who was known as "Gigi," were among nine people, to die in the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
Foggy weather conditions apparently caused the helicopter's pilot, Ara Zobayana, to smash into a hillside. It burst into flames and started a brush fire in the Calabasas mountains. NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy said in a press conference that it was a "high energy impact crash."
During last night's game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Lakers pulled out all stops to memorialize Kobe, whose entire NBA career was for the team.
The Lakers lost to the Trailblazers in their first game since Kobe's death, but the night was about their fallen hero. Tearful team star LeBron James told the crowd, "Now, I got something written down, but Lakers nation, I would be selling y’all short if I read off this s**t so I’m going to go from the heart.
"The first thing that comes to mind is all about family, and as I look around this arena, we’re all grieving…When you’re going through something like this the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders’ of your family. LeBron continued, "I heard about the Lakers nation and how much of a family it is and that is absolutely what I’ve seen this week. Not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the league, but from everybody.
"Everybody’s that here...this is really, truly a family. I know Kobe, Gianna, Vanessa and everybody thanks you guys from the bottom of their hearts. "Now, I know at some point we will have a memorial for Kobe, but I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of 30 years of blood and sweat and tears…and countless hours. The termination to be as great as he could be. Tonight we celebrate the man who came here at 18-years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the last three years.'
"Before we get to play…I love y’all man. Kobe is a brother to me and from the time I was in high school, watching him from afar, to when I joined this league and watched him up close. All the battle’s we’ve had throughout my career...the one thing we always shared was the determination to win and be great.
"So in the words of Kobe Bryant, 'Mamba out', but in the words of us, not forgotten," LeBron said. After his speech, a 24.2 second silence was held for the Bryant family following a moment silence for the other seven victims. Also, Usher and Boyz II Men sang Amazing Grace and the Star Spangled Banner, respectively, and the Lakers posted a video montage of Bryant's best moments with violin music.
In grieving Vanessa's first message four days after the tragedy, she posted a photo of Kobe and Gianna from basketball's 2016 All-Star Game. Kobe and Gianna are survived by Vanessa, 37, and the Bryants' three other daughters: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, seven months.