Vanessa Bryant Gives an Emotional Speech Remembering Kobe and Gigi

February 24, or better yet 2/24, is the day in which we all celebrate the life of Kobe and Gianna Bryant. The Staples Center hosted a celebration of life for Kobe and Gigi as speeches were given by those who knew the Bryant family intimately, and beyond the basketball court.

The ceremony began with Beyonce Knowles-Carter performing her songs “XO” and “Halo.” Jimmy Kimmel followed by welcoming the jam-packed Staples center crowd. Fighting through tears Kimmel introduced Vanessa by saying “Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number, Gigi’s face, Gigi’s number.” resulting in a standing ovation.

Vanessa owed us nothing, not a statement, not a social media post, and certainly not a 21 minute, straight from the heart speech. Despite clearly still grieving, Vanessa showed great strength and courage as she gave a beautiful speech remembering and celebrating her late husband and 13-year old daughter. As dark as the circumstances, I found some beauty in that Vanessa commanded the very arena Kobe did for two decades, found her inner “Mamba Mentality”, and celebrated the life of her lost ones like only she could. It was as if Kobe and Gigi were by her side.

Vanessa started off the speech with “I’ll start with my baby girl first.” She went on to talk about Gigi’s love for basketball, how she would’ve been the greatest WNBA player of all time, how she would write papers for school about the unfair pay gap between the NBA and WNBA. But that got to me was when Vanessa went on to talk about Gigi the person, the sister and daughter. “Her smile took up her entire face. Like me. Kobe always said she was like me. She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm. She was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine.” Vanessa talked about how Gigi was always so maternal and would’ve been a great mother one day.

Vanessa then transitioned into eulogizing Kobe, her soulmate, best friend, her everything since she was 17 years old.

“He was the most amazing husband,” she said. “Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. I was fire. He was ice. Vice versa at times. … He was my everything.” Vanessa added that her and Kobe planned on renewing their vows, and looked forward to the days where they could sit back, relax and be the “cool grandparents.”

One of the hardest parts of the speech was when Vanessa went through all the things Kobe would miss. He wouldn’t be able to walk his daughters down the aisle, or watch his youngest grow up, or be there to support Vanessa when she drops them off at Kindergarten for the first time. She brought us inside their life, the things that she and her family have to live with, or should I say without.

Vanessa closed out her words to Kobe and Gigi with “God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to heaven together… Babe you take care of our Gigi. I got Nani, BB and Koko. We’re still the best team. We love you both and miss you forever and always, mommy.”

As Vanessa made her way off the stage and back to her seat, she was met with the helping hand of Michael Jordan and a yet another standing ovation from the tear filled audience.

The next three speakers were Diana Taurasi, Sabrina Ionescuthe and Geno Auriemma. Three of the most prominent names in women basketball was the perfect way to honor Kobe and Gigi. Taurasi spoke about how Kobe inspired her game. Sabrina Ionescuthe, Oregon player who developed a close relationship with Kobe through his training spoke about how Kobe helped her game and influenced her to return to college to work on her game even though she could’ve been drafted. Coach Auriemma spoke not as a basketball coach but as a father. He talked about how Gigi was excited to join UCONN in a few years, and about the time Kobe brought Gigi to UCONN to watch games and meet the team.

Michael Jordan took the stage next and gave a lengthy speech that will likely go down as the very best he’s ever given. MJ managed to give never before seen insight into the relationship between he and Kobe, all while crying profusely, but leaving room to crack a joke about yet another “Jordan crying meme.” Jordan explained that in the early years he found Kobe to be annoying with the 3 am texts and calls about a post move or the triangle offense, but eventually that annoyance grew to love, and a brother hood. I think Jordan summed up what everyone is feeling since that fateful January 26th, and it was “When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died.”

Shaq was the last to speak, keeping it light and making everyone smile. He recalled a moment the he and Kobe were teammates and players were complaining that Kobe did not pass the ball. Shaq went to discuss it with Kobe saying “there is no I in team” only for Kobe to respond with but there’s is an M-E in that MF’er. Shaq kept up the jokes as he said he will teach all of Kobe’s daughters his moves, but won’t pass on his free throw technique.

The ceremony ended pretty soon after that but the legacy of Kobe and Gigi will live on forever.

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