Kobe Bryant’s grieving wife, Vanessa, is trying her very best to be strong for her three daughters after the deaths of her husband and their 13-year-old, Gianna.
The NBA legend and Vanessa married in April 2001 when he was 22 and she was 18.
Together they have four children: Gianna, 13, who was killed alongside her father, Natalia, 17, three-year-old Bianka, and seven-month-old Capri.
‘It’s an extremely difficult and devastating time for Vanessa and the whole family,’ a source told People.
Another insider said Vanessa is completely ‘devastated’ and can ‘hardly keep it together’.
‘She can’t finish a sentence without crying. But she is working very hard to pull it together for the other girls. She now has to be the strong one.’
Bryant met Vanessa in 1999 when she was 17 and was working as a background model on a music video. They got engaged six months later and they got married in 2001.
Kobe had already played three seasons in the NBA.
There was a huge media frenzy around their relationship in the early days with a television helicopter once flying over Vanessa’s high school campus trying to picture them together.
The intense attention over their relationship forced her to miss her high school prom.
Bryant’s family is said to have refused to attend their low-key wedding because they were reportedly concerned that he was too young to wed and were worried there was no prenuptial agreement.
In 2003, the year their daughter Natalia was born, Kobe was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old in a hotel in Colorado.
Rape charges were later dropped after he claimed it was consensual and Vanessa appeared alongside him at a press conference where he admitted cheating on her.
The tearful star told his wife: ‘You’re my backbone. You’re a blessing. You’re a piece of my heart. You’re the air I breathe.’
He added: ‘And you’re the strongest person I know, and I’m so sorry for having to put you through this and having to put our family through this.’
The accuser later dropped all charges.
The couple faced heartache in 2005 when Vanessa suffered a miscarriage due to an ectopic pregnancy. He later blamed himself for the stress he had put her through.
Speaking in the Showtime documentary, Kobe Bryant’s Muse he said: ‘We should be building our family. But because of my mistake, because of this tough year, we lost a baby.’
The couple had their second daughter Gianna in 2006.
But in 2011 their relationship was on the rocks again and Vanessa filed for divorce citing ‘irreconcilable differences’ and was set to get half of Kobe’s $150million fortune in the settlement.
But two years later they said the divorce was off and in 2016 they had their third daughter Bianka.
Bryant would often share heartwarming photos and tributes to his family on social media.
In November 2019, he called Vanessa, 37, his ‘Queen’ and their daughters ‘princesses’ in the touching post on Instagram to mark 20 years since they first met when she was at high school.
He wrote: ‘On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4princesses).
‘I love you my mamacita per sempre,” Bryant captioned a throwback photo of the couple along with a photo of them at the time in the Anaheim, California, theme park.
According to People, the insider said that ‘despite their ups and downs, [Vanessa and Kobe] were soulmates’.
‘She thought of him as her partner for life.’
The source said Vanessa is surrounded ‘by people who love her and love Kobe’.
‘She has a good support system. She is relying on her faith. She is not alone. But she will be grieving this for a very long time.’
Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragically died when their helicopter went down on Sunday morning while they were on their way to his Mamba Sports Academy.
They were killed alongside John Altobelli, 56, longtime head coach of Southern California’s Orange Coast College baseball team; his wife, Keri; and daughter, Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Bryant’s daughter; and Christina Mauser, a girls’ basketball coach at a Southern California elementary school.
Another young player, Payton Chester, was also killed in the crash along with her mother Sarah Chester.
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50, was the ninth victim. He was the chief pilot for the aircraft’s owner, Island Express Helicopters.
The company said the pilot had more than 10 years of experience and had logged more than 8,000 flight hours.
He also was a flight instructor who had flown Bryant and other celebrities several times before.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Valerie Edwards