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At only 17, Vanessa was a dancer on the set of one of Snoop Dogg’s music videos, “Tha Eastsidaz,” when she caught 20-year-old Kobe’s eye, according to US Magazine and a throwback photo posted to the Los Angeles Lakers great’s Instagram account.
“We celebrate 12 years of marriage today,” he wrote in the 2013 post. “This pic is the day I asked @ladyvb24 for her number 11/28/99. Thru the ups and downs she has been my love and best friend. 20 and 17 yrs old when we met, we have actually grown up together. A true honor and a blessing. Ti Amo Queen Mamba :-)”
Their first date was on Nov. 28, 1999, when the couple went to Disneyland, according to his Instagram.
Bryant reportedly flooded her with affection and attention, having flowers delivered to her high school and even picking her up from class. US Magazine reported the attention at times caused her to be picked on by classmates, which prompted Vanessa to decide to be homeschooled.
They tied the knot in April 2001 and had four daughters together, ranging in age from just under a year old to 17, but their marriage was, at times, far from drama-free.
Vanessa Bryant stayed by her husband’s side in 2003 when he faced sexual assault accusations from a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado, who later dropped the criminal charges, according to ABC News. A civil case on the matter was resolved privately.
Vanessa Bryant reportedly suffered a miscarriage amidst the legal battle, according to a Showtime documentary about the basketball legend.
In 2011, she filed for divorce amid rumors of Kobe Bryant's extramarital affairs, but they later discontinued the divorce proceedings.
Five years later, in 2016, he thanked Vanessa Bryant and their daughters for their sacrifices during his last game with the Lakers.
"To my family, my wife Vanessa, my daughters Natalia and Gianna thank you guys for all your sacrifices," Kobe Bryant said, according to CNN. "For all the hours I spent in the gym working and training and Vanessa you holding down the family the way that you have, I can't...there's no way I can thank you enough for that."
Kobe Bryant and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were two of the victims of a fatal helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California.
On Valentine’s Day, Vanessa Bryant posted a photo with her husband, which she captioned: “To my forever Valentine, I love you so much. Missing you so much on your favorite holiday. Te amo per sempre. Kisses to you and Gigi in heaven. Happy Valentine’s Day, my babies. With all my love, your boo-boo.”
Celebrities, athletes and sports fans alike flocked Monday to Staples Center in Los Angeles for “A Celebration of Life.”
“God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other,” Vanessa Bryant said, sometimes through tears. “He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi.”
The service took place at the downtown arena where Kobe Bryant played for the Lakers for the final 17 seasons of his two-decade NBA career. Thousands of Lakers fans, many wearing Bryant's jersey or team colors, attended the tearful gathering to honor Los Angeles' most popular athlete and a global basketball icon.
“He was the most amazing husband,” she said. “Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. I was fire. He was ice. Vice versa at times. ... He was my everything."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.