Vanessa Bryant took to Instagram to post a heartfelt tribute to her late husband as his team was honoring his memory on Friday, sharing a picture of a sunset with purple and gold hearts.
As the Los Angeles Lakers returned to the court for the first time since the crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others, the NBA legend’s wife gave her own tribute. Vanessa took to her Instagram stories to post a picture that appeared to be taken from the backyard of the Bryant home, showing a brilliant sunset with purple and gold hearts to honor the Lakers team colors.
After making her Instagram page private immediately following the fatal crash, Vanessa returned this week with a post showing the family posing together and a message thanking fans for their support.
View this post on Instagram
My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️
Vanessa’s Instagram page turned into a memorial of sorts, with thousands of fans and famous friends alike sharing supportive messages and posting memories of the Lakers legend. Her account attracted viral attention, growing by more than 5 million followers in less than a day.
Vanessa Bryant’s Instagram post came at the same time that the Lakers returned to the court with a tribute to Kobe. The team had postponed its game scheduled for Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers, but returned Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers with a 20-minute ceremony at the start that included singer Usher giving a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Many fans had already been flocking to the Staples Center and L.A. Live plaza in the days after Kobe’s death, with thousands leaving items like basketballs and flowers, and writing personal messages about Kobe onto large banners that the team had put out.
One person even brought a trash can into the plaza so fans could throw in balled-up pieces of paper while shouting “Kobe,” which became something of a favorite pastime for many who watched Bryant and imitated his famous jumpshot.
Fans at LA Live have now set up a trash can so they can start throwing paper balls, while yelling "KOBE!"
Honestly pretty heartwarming to see, after 24 hours of such intense sorrow. pic.twitter.com/pt3x8BP5in
— Farbod Esnaashari (@Farbod_E) January 28, 2020
As the Los Angeles Times reported, Vanessa even asked for some of the items that had been left in the plaza.
“Vanessa had reached out to us and said, ‘Our family would like the items out there,'” said Lee Zeidman, the president of Staples Center, L.A. Live and Microsoft Theater. “So we’re going to catalog every one of them. By that I mean, t-shirts, letters, basketballs, stuffed animals, toys. We’re going to put those in specially made containers and we’re going to ship them to the family.”