Vanessa Bryant has been thrust into the spotlight since the sudden death of her husband and daughter in January. Since that tragic helicopter crash in January, she has begun to make clear some of the things she will do to continue her family’s legacy. From honouring Kobe Bryant’s work to keeping the memory of their girl and young player Gianna, aka Gigi, alive, here’s what’s to expect next.
Vanessa recently opened up about Kobe’s post-retirement priorities in a heartfelt social media post. “All he wanted was to spend time with our girls and me to make up for lost time. He wanted to be there for every single milestone and special moment in our girls lives,” she wrote. Met with such overwhelming support from around the world recently, Vanessa has been sharing precious family moments and special stories as a celebration of life.
The LA Lakers team consider Vanessa part of their family and has worked closely with her since January to continue Kobe’s legacy. Having met the athlete around the time his career kicked off 20 years ago, Vanessa has gone from being a Snoop Dogg video girl to a respected spokesperson for Kobe’s accolades and legacy. After it was announced the 18-time All-Star and five-time champion would be elected for the 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Vanessa called it the “peak of his NBA career”.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment and honour, and we’re extremely proud of him,” she told ESPN during an interview with eldest daughter Natalia. Vanessa also stepped in to announce the release of the first in The Wizenard Series of books that Kobe co-authored. She said he “would have been so proud to see his work continuing on”. Vanessa is making sure her daughter will be remembered just like her father.
So Vanessa changed the name of the Mamba Sports Foundation to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation to incorporate Gigi’s nickname. Then to commemorate what would have been Gianna’s 14th birthday, Vanessa asked fans to wear red on May 1. She simultaneously launched the #PlayGigisWay initiative to encourage kindness, and bracelets bearing her daughter’s name, with profits going to the foundation.
Vanessa was proud to announce Gigi as the youngest draft pick as part of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)’s honorary scheme. The other young players who died alongside Gigi in the California helicopter crash were also honorary picks. With the family’s youth sports foundation predicted to produce major success stories, Vanessa’s likely planning plenty more where that came from.
Starting 2021, Vanessa will play a large role in determining the honouree of the new Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award. She will present the accolade at the NBA All-Star Game, highlighting Kobe’s role as a mentor and coach, and Gigi’s commitment to playing at the highest levels.