So touching. Vanessa Bryant reacted to the Los Angeles Lakers’ tribute to her late husband, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and her late daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, during their first game back on Friday, January 31, after they tragically died in a helicopter crash along with seven other victims.
“There is no #24 without #2. ❤️#GirlDaddy #DaddysGirl #MyBabies ❤️❤️ #OurAngels #KobeandGigi,” Vanessa, 37, wrote on Instagram. Her caption accompanied a photo of Bryant’s No. 24 Lakers jersey and Gianna’s No. 2 Mamba Sports Academy jersey, which were covering the seatbacks of the last courtside seats Bryant and his 13-year-old sat in together, and roses were placed in the seats.
It was an emotional night for the NBA team as they returned to the court in the Staples Center for the first time since losing their revered former teammate. Bryant and Giana, along with Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri Altobelli, and their daughter, Alyssa Altobelli, Mamba Academy girls’ basketball team assistant coach Christina Mauser, mother Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton Chester and the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, all passed away in the deadly private helicopter crash on January 26 in Calabasas, California.
The Lakers were scheduled to play a game the following Tuesday, but the game was postponed until Friday to allow time to mourn.
When the team returned, they made sure to honor Bryant and his daughter, who was an up-and-coming basketball player in her own right, during their first game back. The somber game kicked off with a performance of “Amazing Grace” by Usher, according to CBS Sports. After that, fans watched a beautiful tribute video featuring highlights of Bryant’s greatest career moments and quotes that was paired with music by cellist Ben Hong.
But one of the most emotional moments of the night was when Bryant’s former teammate LeBron James gave a speech about his late friend. “Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the last three years,” LeBron, 35, said. He concluded his speech with Bryant’s famous tagline. “So in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba Out,’ but in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.”
The entire Lakers team entered the court wearing Bryant’s jersey and all five members of the starting team were announced as: “No. 24, 6’6”, 20th campaign out of Lower Merion High School, Kobe Bryant.”
Our thoughts are with the Bryant, Altobelli, Mauser, Chester and Zobayan families during this difficult time.