- Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
- Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.
On the four-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s surreal NBA sendoff, the Los Angeles Lakers star’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, looked back on her late husband’s retirement, which was cut short by a helicopter crash in January.
“My husband worked his ass off for 20 years. Gave it his all,” she wrote to her nearly 14 million followers on Instagram on Monday. “All he wanted was to spend time with our girls and me to make up for lost time. He wanted to be there for every single milestone and special moment in our girls lives.
“He only got to enjoy 3 years and 9 months of retirement. We had 2 more daughters, he won an Oscar, he opened Granity studios, he became a 5x best selling author and coached Gianna’s basketball team in that time. She worked hard and gave her all 7 days a week just like her daddy. I wish I could back to that morning, every day. I wish they had a normal local game on 1/26. Life truly isn’t fair. This is just senseless.”
The post, titled “Mamba Day,” included a nearly five-minute video, featuring highlights from the Lakers’ 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016, when Bryant scored 60 points to cap his 20-year NBA career.
Near the end of the video, Bryant jogs across the court to greet his family after the game is over, kissing and hugging Vanessa before saying to her, “Go figure. Go figure, right? Go figure.” He then kisses Gianna and his eldest daughter, Natalia, and says, “Beast mode,” before he and Gianna pound fists and blow kisses into the air.
The video concludes with Bryant walking out of Staples Center, holding Vanessa’s hand, while reflecting on his NBA career.
“It’s a beautiful time to be able to have this moment with my family and have the finish that we’ve had,” Bryant says. “It’s amazing how fast time goes, man. Just extremely blessed and extremely appreciative, you know? A dream come true.”
Kobe and Vanessa had their third daughter, Bianka Bella Bryant, later that year on Dec. 5, 2016. They welcomed their fourth daughter, Capri Kobe Bryant, into the world on June 20, 2019.
He won an Academy Award in 2018 for Best Animated Short for his role as an executive producer on the piece “Dear Basketball,” which was inspired by a poem he wrote as he was nearing retirement from the NBA.
His books – with fantasy stories aimed at children to promote education through sport – have been wildly successful, including “The Wizenard Series: Season One,” which reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list for Middle Grade Hardcover reads earlier this month after its posthumous release.
Bryant’s final game with the Lakers turned into a grand event, capturing the sports world’s imagination and even stealing some of the spotlight from the Golden State Warriors, who beat the Memphis Grizzlies that night to break the NBA record for wins in a season with 73.
Bryant led the Lakers to the win despite L.A. coming into the game having lost 14 of its previous 16 games and the Jazz having 40 wins to the Lakers’ 16 wins on the season entering the night.
Luminaries lined the seats, including Jack Nicholson, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Bella Hadid, David Beckham and former teammate Shaquille O’Neal. The ex-Lakers big man challenged Bryant to score 50 that night. He did him 10 better.
Bryant was en route to Thousand Oaks, California, with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, on Jan. 26 when their helicopter crashed, killing everyone on board. Gianna’s Team Mamba, coached by her father, was scheduled to play a game that day at the Mamba Sports Academy – a training facility in which Bryant was a partner.
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