Kobe hon­ored on birth­day

Vanessa Bryant posts warm trib­ute to late hus­band

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY LORENZO REYES

Vanessa Bryant paid an emo­tional trib­ute to her late hus­band, Kobe Bryant, who died along­side 13-year-old daugh­ter Gianna and seven oth­ers in a Jan. 26 he­li­copter crash, on what would’ve been the for­mer Laker’s 42nd birth­day.

“To my baby~ Happy birth­day,” Vanessa Bryant wrote Sun­day in a mes­sage posted on her In­sta­gram page. “I love you and miss you more than I can ever ex­plain. I wish you and Gigi were here to cel­e­brate YOU! I wish I could make you your fav food or a birth­day cake with my Gigi.

“I miss your big hugs, your kisses, your smile, your loud ass deep laugh. I miss teas­ing you, making you laugh and burst­ing your bub­ble. I miss you sit­ting on my lap like my big baby that you are. I think about your ten­der­ness and pa­tience all the time. I think about ev­ery­thing you would do in sit­u­a­tions to help me deal with ev­ery­thing thrown my way.”

The Lak­ers will wear spe­cial “Black Mamba” uni­forms Mon­day in Game 4 of their first-round play­off se­ries against the Trail Blaz­ers. Mon­day, which is Aug. 24 — or 8/24 — rep­re­sents the two num­bers Bryant wore as a Laker.

Bryant is the fa­ther of four daugh­ters: Gianna, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 14-month-old Capri.

“Thank you for grow­ing up with me and teach­ing me how to be strong,” Vanessa Bryant con­tin­ued in her post. “How to try to see the best in peo­ple but cutout the bs. Your thought­ful ges­tures and the amaz­ing way you made us all feel is ex­tremely missed. I pic­ture your smile and wide big wel­com­ing hugs daily.

“God I miss you both so much. Our lives feel so empty with­out you and Gigi. I’ve been com­pletely bro­ken in­side. As much as I want to cry, I put a smile on my face to make our daugh­ters days shine a lit­tle brighter. I’m not the strong one, they are. They’re strong and re­silient. I’m sure you’re proud of them. They put a smile on my face ev­ery­day.”

On Sun­day, Nike un­veiled an ad­ver­tise­ment video trib­ute to Bryant, nar­rated by mu­si­cian Ken­drick La­mar. The video shows high­lights and quotes from Bryant’s ca­reer and fo­cuses on themes of self-im­prove­ment.

Nike also is launch­ing Mamba Week on Sun­day and prom­ises to in­clude Bryant-themed jer­seys and shoes. The sports-ap­parel gi­ant also has pledged to do­nate $1 mil­lion to the newly named Mamba & Mam­bacita Sports Foun­da­tion — for­merly Mamba Sports Academy.

“I wish I could wake up from this hor­ri­ble night­mare,” Vanessa Bryant con­tin­ued. “I wish I could sur­prise our girls and wel­come you and Gigi home to us. I’m mad I didn’t go first. I al­ways wanted to go first so that I self­ishly didn’t have to feel this heartache. You were sup­posed to miss me. Gigi was sup­posed to be here with her sis­ters. It should’ve been me.”

Bryant was elected posthu­mously to the 2020 class of the Nai­smith Memo­rial Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame when the vote was an­nounced in April. The coro­n­avirus pan­demic forced the in­duc­tion cer­e­mony to be post­poned un­til May 15, 2021.

Lak­ers star LeBron James passed Bryant on the all-time NBA scor­ing list the day be­fore Bryant died, mov­ing into third place. Bryant, an 18-time All-Star and five­time NBA cham­pion, re­tired in 2016 with 33,643 ca­reer points.

“There’s so much I wish I could tell you and show you and Gigi,” Vanessa Bryant wrote. “So many things you would both be happy to see and be a part of. So many mile­stones for our girls. So many things you would be proud of. I’m so thank­ful I have pieces of heaven here on earth to wake up forthanks to YOU.

“Thank you for lov­ing me enough to last sev­eral life­times. In every life­time I would choose YOU. Thank you for show­ing me what real love is. Thank YOU for ev­ery­thing. I know my Gigi is cel­e­brat­ing you like she al­ways has on our spe­cial days. I miss my thought­ful princess so much! Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, Capri and I wish you a happy birth­day my love. I love you for now, for­ever and for al­ways.”

ALEX GALLARDO/AP

Dodgers play­ers honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant dur­ing pregame cer­e­monies Sun­day be­fore fac­ing the Rock­ies.

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