Gianna, fondly known as Gigi, was 13 when she died in a helicopter crash along with her father, Kobe Bryant.
American philanthropist Vanessa Bryant is paying tribute to her late daughter, Gianna Bryant, on her 17th birthday. "Happy 17th birthday, baby girl. I love you and miss you so much, sweet Angel," Vanessa, 40, wrote on her Instagram handle on Monday. In a second post celebrating Gianna's birthday, Vanessa wrote, "Happy birthday, sweet Gigi! We love you to the moon and back infinity +1. Forever and Always."
Gianna Maria Onore Bryant, also affectionately referred to as "Gigi", was an American basketball player who attended Harbor Day School in Newport Beach, California. She died in a fatal helicopter crash along with her father, Kobe Bryant, who was a great NBA player and the legend of the Lakers, and seven others. Bryant and Gigi were traveling with the group in a private helicopter on January 26, 2020, when foggy weather conditions made visibility difficult, resulting in the deadly accident near Calabasas, California. Kobe was 41 and Gigi was 13 at the time of their deaths.
Vanessa began the celebrations for Gigi's birthday pretty early this year. To honor the life of her daughter, she partnered with Nike to release the Kobe IV Protro tennis shoe. She reminded the fans that all proceeds will benefit the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation. On Saturday, she shared a photo of Mambacita merchandise, including Gianna's #2 jersey and sneakers. "Celebrating my Gigi. MAMBACITA #PlayGigisWay #BirthdayPrincess 5/1/06 Proceeds benefit @mambamambacitasports," she wrote.
Vanessa added in an emotional note, "When you lace on the Kobe IV Protro 'Mambacita' it's a reminder to play with joy, curiosity and competitiveness, while never taking any opportunity for granted, just like Gigi. Available starting 5.1, dropping on SNKRS in select regions. All proceeds benefit the @mambamambacitasports foundation."
Vanessa also shared a video from Nike’s #PlayGigisWay campaign, which featured several stars in the NBA and WNBA as well as those who knew Gigi's game on and off the court personally. "Playing Gigi’s way means making everyone around you better. Gigi’s been making me better since we were 5 years old. Her radiant smile brought joy into every moment," teammate Aubrey Callaghan said.
The Kobe IV Protro “Mambacita” celebrates Gianna “Gigi” Bryant’s 17th birthday. We dare you to #PlayGigisWay, to be competitive, joyful, and curious and never take any opportunity for granted, just like Gigi.— Nike Basketball (@nikebasketball) April 28, 2023
Available starting 5.1 on SNKRS in select regions. pic.twitter.com/j4MH8j5gP2
Kobe and Vanessa's love story began when they first met in November 1999. Soon, the couple were engaged and they later tied the knot in the spring of 2001. In their two-decades-long marriage, the pair birthed four daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri. However, their marriage was not free from highs and lows, as it included everything from sexual misconduct allegations against Kobe—which were later dropped—to a devastating miscarriage. Although the couple announced plans to separate in 2011, they later called off the divorce proceedings and decided to stay together in 2013.
In March, Vanessa and her daughters Natalia, 20, Bianka, 6, and Capri, 3, honored the late Kobe Bryant during an emotional ceremony unveiling his handprints at the iconic Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. "I'm honored to be here today to recognize the man that we all knew and love my dad, Kobe Bryant," an emotional Natalia said during her speech at the event. She continued to speak about witnessing and admiring his intense work ethic as a professional basketball player and how despite his busy schedule, the Laker star player always made time for his four daughters. "Being his daughter is one of the greatest joys of my life, and I hope to continue to embody and cherish the many lessons he has taught me," she added.
While concluding her speech, Natalia said that they will love Kobe "forever and always," and made sure to include Gianna, who died in the helicopter crash alongside their dad, in her regards. "Dad, you're an icon, a legend, the storyteller, and most importantly, the best girl dad any young woman could ever dream of," she said. "I'm honored to be here to represent you and our family, and we are extremely proud of you. We will love you forever and always. Love, Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, Capri and Mommy."