The sports world was shaken when basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, the pilot, and six other people. As more details about the Jan. 26, 2020 incident continue to emerge, the news only becomes more heartbreaking. For instance, we now know that Kobe and Gianna were on their way to a youth basketball tournament at Mamba Sports Academy, and they were joined by two other families aboard the helicopter and an assistant coach. Gigi was passionate about basketball, and many predicted she would carry on her father’s athletic legacy.
While fans and celebrities felt a strong connection to the retired Los Angeles Laker, nothing can quite compare to what Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, must be going through. Vanessa and Kobe had four children together during their nearly 20-year marriage, including Gianna. Although no one could fault Vanessa for opting to stay out of the spotlight and process her grief in private, she has bravely posted on social media more than once to talk about this unimaginable loss.
Vanessa Bryant's 'brain refuses to accept' the truth
On Feb. 10, 2020, Vanessa Bryant posted a lengthy Instagram update about how she’s coping, along with video footage of Gianna and Kobe. “I’ve been reluctant to put my feelings into words. My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone,” she wrote. “I can’t process both at the same time. It’s like I’m trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me.”
Vanessa acknowledged the range of emotions she’s feeling, including anger: “It feels wrong. Why should I be able to wake up another day when my baby girl isn’t being able to have that opportunity?! I’m so mad. She had so much life to live. Then I realize I need to be strong and be here for my 3 daughters. Mad I’m not with Kobe and Gigi but thankful I’m here with Natalia, Bianka and Capri.”
As Vanessa noted, there’s no wrong way to grieve. “I know what I’m feeling is normal. It’s part of the grieving process. I just wanted to share in case there’s anyone out there that’s experienced a loss like this. God I wish they were here and this nightmare would be over.”
Vanessa also extended prayers to all of the victims of the helicopter crash, which included pilot Ara Zobayan; Sarah and Payton Chester; and John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli.
The date of the memorial for Kobe and GiGi is special
Vanessa Bryant announced that a memorial titled “A Celebration of Life: Kobe & Gianna Bryant” will take place at the Staples Center, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers. The date of the memorial — Feb. 24, 2020 — holds special significance. Gigi’s jersey number was 2; her father’s was 24; and Vanessa and Kobe were together for 20 years.
That’s not the only way the pair has been honored thus far. On Feb. 5, 2020, Gianna’s basketball team retired her #2 jersey. Along with photos from the ceremony at Harbor Day School, Vanessa wrote: “My Gigi. I love you! I miss you. You’ve taught us all that no act of kindness is ever too small. Mommy is still and will ALWAYS be so proud of you mamacita.”
On Jan. 31, 2020, at the Lakers’ first home game since the tragedy, #8 and #24 Bryant jerseys were placed on all the seats inside the Staples Center. Two court-side seats were decorated with roses, as well as a #2 Mamba Academy jersey for Gianna and a #24 Lakers jersey for the Black Mamba himself.
New details about the helicopter crash continue to emerge
New information about the helicopter accident continues to emerge. While the exact cause of the Calabasas, Calif. crash has not been disclosed — the Associated Press reported the investigation could take at least a year. The National Transportation Safety Board found no outward evidence of engine failure, but there is one update that’s especially gut-wrenching.
According to TIME, pilot Ara Zobayan had nearly cleared the heavy cloud cover that was hampering visibility before the helicopter crashed into the hillside. “The helicopter was just 100 feet (30 meters) from the cloud tops and conceivably would have broken through into clear air in a matter of seconds,” the publication reported. It’s believed that foggy weather impacted Zobayan’s ability to fly that day, although several people who knew him were quick to vouch for his skills as a pilot with 8,200 hours of flight time.
As Vanessa Bryant’s Instagram post made clear, this hasn’t been an easy situation for anyone involved. Perhaps she will find some solace as Kobe, Gianna, and the rest of the victims’ memories continue to be honored by loved ones and strangers alike.
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