Following the tragic death of former NBA player Kobe Bryant on Jan. 26, 2020, fans have been grieving and memorializing their fallen hero. They’re also looking back on his life, which was one filled with special moments that weren’t only experienced on the basketball court. For instance, back in the mid-’90s, the athlete, who was still years away from becoming the legendary figure he would eventually be known as, met singer and actress Brandy Norwood and was immediately fond of the star who was just a teenager herself.

Still just 18 years old, Bryant had been invited to the 1996 Essence Awards, an event that Norwood was also attending. At the time, she “already had a platinum-selling album,” according to Insider, which is why it’s not hard to imagine why Bryant was struck by her star-power. And that’s not all that attracted him to Norwood.

“He came home from the Essence Awards and said, ‘I met such a nice, beautiful, intelligent, sweet person,” Bryant’s mother later told The Philadelphia Inquirer (via Insider). That’s why, despite the fact that he “was still relatively unknown outside the Philadelphia basketball scene at the time,” he mustered up the courage to ask Brandy out on a date. And not just any date. He asked her to prom.

Kobe Bryant took Brandy to prom

It’s true: back in the mid-’90s, Kobe Bryant made headlines when he brought singer Brandy Norwood as his date to his high school prom. “Once upon a time in ’96 Brandy was the worldwide superstar adored by all and Kobe was a young Philly hoops prodigy who somehow managed to score a prom date with the princess,” TMZ recalls.

Bryant’s mom told The Philidelphia Inquirer (via Insider) that after her son had asked Norwood to be his date, she called to give him her answer, which was… maybe. “[W]hen [Brandy] called, she said, ‘My mom might let me go.'” The basketball player’s mother admitted, “I thought it was so sweet.” Norwood’s mom clearly must have eventually agreed to the date because the singer and the future NBA legend indeed went to prom together, which meant a lot to the young rising star.

“It’s my first prom, my first date, my first everything,” Norwood said in 1996, according to The Morning Call. And even though she noted that there were “cameras and media there,” she also said “it still felt normal. …I really needed to experience that and I wouldn’t [have had it] if Kobe never asked me.” That’s because the star — who had spent her younger years in the spotlight and didn’t attend a regular school — explained that she “miss[ed] out on a lot when it comes to teenage life.” That’s perhaps why she was sure to keep mementos from that special night with Bryant.

Brandy kept mementos from her prom date with Kobe Bryant

A high school prom is a memorable event for many teens, and plenty of people keep treasures from that night in order to remind them of the memories for years to come. And it turns out that Brandy Norwood is no different. After the star accompanied Kobe Bryant to his high school prom, she was sure to save some mementos from the occasion.

In 2014, TMZ caught up with Norwood and asked the singer if she still has the corsage that she wore that night. She responded by telling them, “My mom does, I think. Yeah, she does, she does.” And while she claimed then that she didn’t still have her “prom outfit” — while assuring fans that they can find pictures of it on the internet — she said differently two years later.

Norwood revealed to TMZ in 2016 that she did indeed keep the dress she wore to Bryant’s prom. After a question of whether or not she still has the gown, she simply turned to the camera behind her to smile and nod. When asked if she’s tried it on in the years since, she admitted, “No!” We have no doubt that it would still be as lovely on her today as it was when she accompanied Bryant to his prom all those years ago.

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