LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Vanessa Bryant paid tribute to husband NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, one year after they died along with seven others in a fiery helicopter crash.
The group was traveling to a youth basketball tournament on Jan. 26, 2020, when their helicopter plunged into a steep hillside in the dense morning fog just outside of Los Angeles.
Bryant shared a touching letter from one of Gigi’s best friends, Aubrey Callaghan on Instagram on the first anniversary of her death.
“Thank you so much for beautifully sharing some of your memories of my Gigi with me and allowing me to share them here on my ig. My Gigi is INCREDIBLE and I truly appreciate your thoughtful letter. She loves you so much. I miss my baby girl and Kob-Kob so much, too,” Bryant captioned the Instagram post. “I will never understand why/how this tragedy could’ve happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn’t seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you! #PlayGigisWay #Mambacita #Mamba #DaddysGirl #GirlDad.”
In the letter, Aubrey wrote about her memories of Gigi and hopes her future daughters turn out exactly like her.
“Her love of life is something I will also admire endlessly. She attacked each day as though it was hers to conquer. She would smile and bring the rest up with her,” Aubrey wrote. “The mere fact that she boosted my confidence enough to get met o play basketball with her for four years shows how powerful she was.”
“There are times I get into a pit of despair thinking about her and what she could’ve accomplished had she had a couple more years,” Aubrey continued. “But recently I have been thinking about the mark she did leave on this earth. Her fights for equality in sports made the world reconsider there [sic] opinions, she along with Mr. Bryant, set the wheels in motion. But on a lower level, on behalf of every person who came across her, I can say that she changed our lives.”
Aubrey ended the note saying she would be privileged to share more stories of Gigi with Bryant.
Gigi had a promising youth basketball career and a competitive pugnaciousness that reminded everybody of her dad. Coined the “Mambacita,” Gigi was expected to continue her father’s basketball legacy. Kobe Bryant coached her eighth grade club basketball team at his Mamba Sports Academy.
Kobe and Vanessa Bryant married in April 2001. In addition to Gigi, their daughters include Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
Bryant has frequently shared her grief on Instagram, posting a picture of Kobe on what would have been his 42nd birthday in August.
“God I miss you both so much. Our lives feel so empty without you and Gigi. I’ve been completely broken inside. As much as I want to cry, I put a smile on my face to make our daughters’ days shine a little brighter. I’m not the strong one, they are. They’re strong and resilient. I’m sure you’re proud of them. They put a smile on my face everyday,” said Bryant on Instagram. “I wish I could wake up from this horrible nightmare. I wish I could surprise our girls and welcome you and Gigi home to us. I’m mad I didn’t go first. I always wanted to go first so that I selfishly didn’t have to feel this heartache.”
She also frequently shares pictures of her goddaughter Elisabet Gianna Gasol, named after Gigi. Her father is Pau Gasol, who also played for the Lakers.