She spoke at the Staples Center, which was packed to the rafters, for a “celebration of life” for both Kobe and Gianna. The center is also home to the Los Angeles Lakers and is known as the “house that Kobe built”.
The duo and seven others died on January 26, 2020, when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas, California, north of Los Angeles.
In her emotional speech, Vanessa described Kobe as: “The MVP of girl dads”.
“He always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are. He taught them how to be brave and how to keep pushing forward when things get tough,” she said through tears.
“I couldn’t see him as a celebrity, nor just an incredible basketball player – he was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children.
“He was my everything – Kobe and I have been together since I was 17-and-a-half-years old. I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant, and his protector.”
She also had some words for Gigi.
“She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine. I truly feel she made positive changes for the WNBA players now. They knew Gigi’s goal was to eventually play in the WNBA,” she said.
“Gigi was very competitive, like her daddy, but Gianna had sweet grace about her.
“Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face, like mine. Kobe always said she was me. She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm, she was tender and loving on the inside.
“I’m still so proud of Gianna. She made a difference and was kind to everyone she met in the 13 years she was here on earth.”
The date of the memorial is a special day for the Bryant family, as it symbolizes the jersey number Kobe wore (24) towards the end of his career while Gianna wore number 2 in her youth team matches.
The service featured speakers reflecting on Bryant’s impact on basketball and the world, along with music and retrospectives on Bryant’s on-court achievements.
Bryant played for the Lakers for 20 seasons, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which was set up following Bryant and Gianna’s death.
Beyonce was one of those who performed.
“I’m here because I love Kobe. And this was one of his favorite songs,” she said as she sang a special rendition of “XO” from her 2013 self-titled album.
Fighting back tears, fellow basketball great Michael Jordan paid tribute to his close friend, saying: “When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died.”
Lamar Odom, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, Dwayne Wade, Doc Rivers, Steph Curry, Bill Russell, Tony Parker, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James also paid tribute to the late NBA star.
Meanwhile, Bryant’s wife has sued the owner of the helicopter which crashed in fog that killed her husband and their teenage daughter.