Inside Kobe Bryant's Relationship With Vanessa Bryant

Kobe Bryant was not only a talented basketball player, but also a loving father to his four daughters, Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri, and a husband to his wife, Vanessa (via People). Kobe and Vanessa enjoyed a nearly two decade-long marriage, though it brought the pair plenty of obstacles that put their relationship to the test (via Los Angeles Times).

In a touching interview Kobe that did that Vanessa shared on her Instagram in April 2021, the late basketball player gushed about their sweet connection, saying, "It's fun. We have a good time together. I love her tremendously. But we're best friends too. It's a blessing."

Even after the heartbreaking and unexpected death of Kobe and daughter Gianna caused by a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020, Vanessa has been diligent in carrying on her husband's legacy, proving the love that the two shared was meaningful and eternal (via USA Today). That being said, let's take a look inside Kobe Bryant's relationship with Vanessa Bryant.

They fell in love super quickly

Before Kobe Bryant was a basketball legend, he actually had plans to become a rapper (via Los Angeles Times). While his music career never took off, it did lead him to the set of Tha Eastsidaz's "G'd Up" music video, where he met Vanessa Laine in 1999, as noted by the Los Angeles Times. Vanessa was only 17 at the time and made it to the set of the music video after she was "discovered" at a concert with her friends.

While the pair didn't know each other for long, they were both convinced that it was love at first sight. In an interview with MTV that Vanessa shared on her Instagram, Kobe explained that he "just knew that she was the one." The legendary athlete further opened up in the film "Kobe Bryant's Muse," explaining that he "was always looking for" Vanessa during the two-day music video shoot (via The Knot). According to the Los Angeles Times, the two were attached at the hip after the shoot wrapped, and Kobe even sent roses to Vanessa's high school in a scene that seems straight out of a romantic comedy.

Their love of Disney helped bring them together

Don't let Kobe Bryant's tall frame and cool exterior fool you. Believe it or not, the iconic basketball player was actually a huge fan of Disney. According to 9Honey, in an interview from the documentary "Kobe Bryant's Muse," Kobe sweetly recalled how quickly he and Vanessa got close thanks to their shared love of Disney. They even had their first date at the park! Kobe said, "I loved the Disney movies and things like that, but I never really had a chance to go to the park much. She was a big Disney fan, too, and we used to hang out as Disneyland, we used to go to Magic Mountain, she became my best friend."

Kobe later took Vanessa back to Disneyland on the 20th anniversary of the day they met and posted a photo on his Instagram with the caption, "On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant," noting, "I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4 princesses). I love you my mamacita per sempre."

Kobe Bryant proposed to Vanessa Bryant after only six months of dating

Kobe Bryant was so sure that Vanessa Bryant was the one that the couple got engaged after only six months of dating (via Los Angeles Times). The two lovebirds waited until Vanessa turned 18 and then said "I do" in April 2001. Even though Vanessa was still a high school senior, everyone could tell that the pair was madly in love. According to ExtraTV, Kobe shared in his documentary "Kobe Bryant's Muse," that he could not wait to marry Vanessa. The then-budding basketball star reflected on that period of time and said, "But now, being in Los Angeles and feeling like I'm going to be a Laker for the rest of my life, I just met this beautiful woman that I just see the world the same way with. We'd wake up and do what kids do. I'd take her to the batting cage, go hit some balls, we'd play miniature golf, go to the movies, go out to eat. It was just a beautiful time, man."

Although their romance seemed like a fairytale, there was skepticism concerning the relationship. However, Vanessa and Kobe continued to surprise people. The Los Angeles Times reported that there was no prenuptial agreement because, as Vanessa shared with her stepfather, Kobe "loved her too much."

They had a small wedding ceremony

After Kobe and Vanessa Bryant's quick engagement, the pair had a small ceremony with only about a dozen guests, according to the Los Angeles Times. Kobe Bryant's parents and Lakers teammates didn't even attend, and there was speculation that the basketball player's father did not approve of his soon-to-be wife. We know that the ceremony took place at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point, California, but other than that, there aren't many details regarding the event.

Despite a lot of privacy regarding the actual day of the wedding, Vanessa and Kobe Bryant always publicly honored their anniversary with sweet photos on Instagram. A few months after Kobe's death, Vanessa posted a picture of the two cuddling and smiling meant to honor the pair's 19th wedding anniversary with the caption, "My king, my heart, my best friend. Happy 19th wedding anniversary baby. I miss you so much. I wish you were here to hold me in your arms. I love you."

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant had four daughters together

One of Kobe Bryant's lasting legacies is his dedication to his family, especially to his daughters. Natalia "Nani" Bryant came first in January 2003, followed by Gianna "Gigi" Bryant in May 2006, Bianka "BB" Bryant in December 2016, and lastly Capri "KoKo" Bryant in June 2019 (via The U.S. Sun). Although there were plenty of Kobe fans who hoped that he and Vanessa would give birth to a son who would carry on the basketball icon's NBA legacy, Kobe was very vocal about how much he adored being a "girl dad." In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Kobe smiled and gushed, "I love having girls."

In true mama bear fashion, Vanessa never misses an opportunity to talk about how proud she is of her daughters. In an interview with People, Vanessa shared that all of her girls are "strong, resilient, respectful and kind." The proud mother continued, "They're people that I would aspire to be if I was growing up with them." It seems like Vanessa and Kobe could not have loved their four girls any more!

Kobe Bryant admitted that he was unfaithful to Vanessa Bryant

After Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault in July 2003, Vanessa Bryant stood by him (via The Washington Post). A 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado accused the Lakers basketball player of misconduct; however, Kobe denied the sexual assault allegations, insisting that the encounter was consensual. In a statement reported by the Chicago Tribune, Kobe said, "I'm innocent. I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery."

The criminal case against Bryant was later dropped three weeks after the Colorado woman filed a civil lawsuit in 2004, and Kobe and Vanessa remained a couple (via Los Angeles Times). Kobe stated that his wife was his "backbone" throughout that period of time, as Vanessa remained glued to his side in support.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

They remained committed to their relationship after tough times

Despite several challenging times throughout their marriage, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant's love and commitment to each other carried them through 20 years together (via People). In an episode of Showtime Basketball's "All the Smoke," Kobe shared the secret to their successful relationship. He said, although relationships consist of constant highs and lows, "That's also the beauty of it: having the persistence and determination to work through things — very, very tough things — and we've been able to do that."

Instances of "very tough things" include when Vanessa experienced a miscarriage, which devastated the mom of one at the time and her husband. According to the Latin Times, in Showtime's "Kobe Bryant's Muse," the basketball player blamed himself for the heartbreaking situation. He shared that he believed the 2003 sexual assault charge filed against him put a lot of stress on Vanessa and said, "The reality is it happened because of me. That's something I have to deal with."

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant almost got a divorce

After a decade of marriage and the birth of two daughters, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant hit another roadblock in their marriage. In December 2011, ESPN reported that Vanessa filed for divorce from Kobe due to "irreconcilable differences." This announcement came as a shock to many as fans regarded Vanessa as the "Queen Mamba" (via Insider). According to the Los Angeles Times, in a joint statement, the Bryants announced that they would share custody of their daughters and that all matters regarding their divorce would be determined in private.

However, their estrangement did not last long. According to NBC Sports, after two years of working on their marriage, the couple shared on Instagram that they had reconciled. Vanessa shared in a post, "We are pleased to announce that we have reconciled. Our divorce action will be dismissed. We are looking forward to our future together."

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant were 'best friends'

One of the main reasons Kobe and Vanessa Bryant had such a long-lasting marriage was because they were each other's "best friends." In February 2020, Vanessa shared an old interview clip where Kobe was asked a series of rapid-fire questions. When the ExtraTV interviewer asked the basketball star who his best friend was, Kobe was quick to respond with, "My wife." That same day, Vanessa posted a tribute to her late husband with the caption, "#mybestfriend #theBestdaddy Miss you so much." Calling him "handsome," "sweet," and "funny," she added, "Miss you saying, 'Bonjourno principessa/reina.'"

Kobe was also known for sharing touching pictures of his wife and never hesitated to let the world know how much she meant to him. The dedicated husband and father of four shared a gorgeous selfie of Vanessa for her birthday in 2018 with the caption, "Happy Birthday to my baby @vanessabryant my love and my best friend."

They started their own foundation and continued to be philanthropic

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant started the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation in 2007 "in an effort to provide young people with life-changing experiences designed to broaden their global perspectives." WUSA 9 reported that the foundation awarded numerous scholarships, collaborated with the Make a Wish Foundation, and ran multiple basketball camps and sports programs.

Kobe and Vanessa have also supported multiple projects through their family foundation, including the National Museum of African American History & Culture. According to People, the couple made a generous donation of at least $1 million. When the museum opened, Kobe tweeted, "Go. See. This. Museum. There is no greater testament to this country than the stories in this building. Honored to be a part of it."

In addition, after Kobe's death, Vanessa made a public statement announcing the new MambaOnThree foundation and asking for donations in order to support other families affected by the helicopter crash (via WUSA 9).

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant were very supportive of their children

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant were never shy about posting supportive photos and bragging about their kids on social media. In an episode of Showtime Basketball's "All the Smoke," Kobe explained that he and Vanessa wanted to raise their four girls to be "strong, independent women" and to teach them to "hold themselves to really high standards." Vanessa also gushed about her daughters in an interview with People and said that making sure her daughters "know that they are loved, supported and important is what motivates [her]."

As most proud parents do, Vanessa and Kobe loved to post photos of their girls on Instagram. Whether it was a clip from Natalia's "first Q&A," a photo of the "little ball of energy B.B.," a post dedicated to Gianna's basketball team, or an adorable picture of "Koko Beans" in Croatia, the Bryant parents made it very clear that they could not have been prouder of their kids.

Vanessa Bryant took over a few of Kobe Bryant's unfinished projects

After Kobe Bryant's death, Vanessa Bryant had to take the helm at some of his companies. One of these projects included Granity Studios (via People). Kobe started the multimedia company with the goal of creating stories about young athletes. In an interview with Showtime Basketball's "All the Smoke," the athlete described his passion for writing novels. Kobe explained, "The novel writing really started just for the kids. The kids can't keep reading stories that have no relation to them whatsoever," referring to fairytales in which princesses are simply woken up with a kiss in order to have a happily ever after. Kobe continued, "You're not going to sleep and then wake up years later and be successful, you know? You've got to work." Some novels published through Granity Studios include "The Mamba Mentality: How I Play" and "The Wizenard Series: Training Camp."

Vanessa also relaunched one of her late husband's charitable projects, the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, as a tribute to Kobe and Gianna. The foundation's goal is to support female athletes like daughter Gianna was and to "create a world where young boys and girls had equal opportunity to pursue their dreams through sports and life."

Vanessa Bryant continues to post tributes to Kobe Bryant

Vanessa Bryant has been diligent in preserving Kobe Bryant's legacy to the world as a father, husband, storyteller, philanthropist, and athlete. Whether she posts heartfelt captions or promotes one of her husband's companies and nonprofits, it's clear that she is always thinking of how to call attention to the values that Kobe held closest to his heart such as love, empowerment, storytelling, and sports.

In the eulogy Vanessa delivered to Kobe at his public memorial, she vulnerably shared some beautiful words about her partner. Vanessa said, "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."

While the years that have passed since Kobe and Gianna Bryant's tragic deaths does not make life any easier for the "Queen Mamba," Vanessa explained to People that she is encouraged by her unconditional love for her late husband and daughter. Vanessa stated, "I guess the best way to describe it is that Kobe and Gigi motivate me to keep going. They inspire me to try harder and be better every day."