Kobe And Vanessa Bryant's Relationship Timeline

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant enjoyed the kind of beautiful love story that seems rare and aspirational in the world of sports and entertainment. A chance meeting at a young age led to a lifelong love story that was tragically cut short after 20 years together.

The world was shocked by the sudden death of Kobe, daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others in a Calabasas helicopter crash on January 26, 2020, but no one was more shocked and heartbroken than Vanessa. Not only did she have to live every parent's worst nightmare by losing a child, but she also had to forge ahead without the love of her life, with their other three girls to care for.

Vanessa credits her strength during the unthinkable time to both Kobe and Gianna. "I guess the best way to describe it is that Kobe and Gigi motivate me to keep going," she told People in March 2021. "They inspire me to try harder and be better every day. Their love is unconditional and they motivate me in so many different ways." 

Here's a look at the love shared by Vanessa and Kobe Bryant, starting from the very beginning.

1999: Kobe and Vanessa Bryant first met

Kobe Bryant first laid eyes on Vanessa Bryant, then Vanessa Laine, on the set of a music video, as he recalled in the 2015 Showtime documentary "Kobe Bryant's Muse." Kobe began by joking about his short foray into rapping. "It didn't last long, but I did make a video. On the video set is where I first met Vanessa," he recalled (per People).

The budding NBA star found Vanessa captivating and frequently sought her out during the two-day shoot. "I would finish a take and go to my trailer but I would wonder where she was the entire time," he remembered. "Then I would come out of the trailer and just wanted to talk to her some more, in between takes and stuff like that."

Kobe seized the opportunity to ask for Vanessa's number. The two would spend hours on the phone together bonding over their similarities like their shared love of Disney movies. Twenty years from the day they met, Kobe even took Vanessa to Disneyland to celebrate their love story (per Instagram).

May 2000: They got engaged just six months after they met

Kobe Bryant waited until Vanessa Bryant turned 18 before he proposed. In May 2000, just six months after they first met, Kobe asked her to marry him. At the time, he managed to keep their relationship so low-key that initial reports speculated who his bride-to-be was, identifying her only as an "18-year-old woman from Orange County" (via CBS News). Bryant shut down rumors his mystery lady was another famous figure. "She's my movie star, she's my star," a 21-year-old Kobe told reporters. "She gives me balance," she noted, adding that "in the past, I've been pretty much all basketball."

When Vanessa eventually was identified, it changed her life at Marina High School, where she was a senior (per CNN). Kobe would send her roses to the front office or pick her up in a Mercedes, to the awe of her classmates. It became chaotic when media started showing up at the school (per News.com.au). Eventually, Vanessa decided to complete her high school education through independent study.

April 2001: Kobe and Vanessa got married

Kobe Bryant's parents weren't thrilled that he was marrying Vanessa Bryant. They felt the couple was too young to get married (per News.com.au). According to the Orlando Sentinel, Pam and Joe Bryant also took issue with the fact that Vanessa is not African American. Still, Kobe's devotion to Vanessa was unwavering. Though it wasn't known publicly at the time, it would later come to light that the two married without a prenuptial agreement (per TMZ).

The two were married at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point, California on April 18, 2001 (per CNN). Sadly, Pam and Joe Bryant did not attend, but Kobe did have the support of his close friend and cousin, University of San Francisco basketball player John Cox IV, who served as Kobe's best man (per The Baltimore Sun). Vanessa's parents, mom Sofia and stepdad Stephen Laine, were also in attendance (per The U.S. Sun).

Despite their high-profile relationship, not much is known about Kobe and Vanessa Bryant's wedding.

January 2003: Their first daughter was born

Kobe Bryant often commented on how unique his connection to Vanessa Bryant was. Their early marriage was filled with happiness, as Kobe recalled in the 2015 Showtime documentary "Kobe Bryant's Muse." "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," he said of that period in their lives (via People). "It was just a beautiful time, man."

Fans were likely excited in the fall of 2002 when news broke that the couple's first child was on the way (per Sports Illustrated Vault). Natalia Diamante Bryant was born on January 19, 2003, at 3:08 p.m., per AP News (via El Vaquero). The next day, Kobe was back on the court, though he admitted his mind was on his baby girl.

"I'm excited to play basketball, but to be honest, I really didn't want to leave. I did not want to take my eyes off her and my wife," he shared. He added, "I told Vanessa after Natalia was here it felt like I just played two back-to-back game sevens in the NBA finals, but the only thing was I didn't play. I was on the bench waving the towel. She was in there playing and hitting all the big baskets."

December 2003: They experienced hard times in their marriage

Kobe Bryant was enjoying a great time in his life when sexual assault allegations rocked his world. In December 2003, a Colorado woman said the NBA star forced himself on her the previous June at a Vail ski resort (per CNN). Kobe admitted to an encounter with the 19-year-old woman, but claimed it was consensual.  

"I didn't force her to do anything against her will. I'm innocent," he said during a press conference with Vanessa by his side (per ESPN). "I sit here in front of you guys, furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery." Vanessa also released a statement. "I know that my husband has made a mistake — the mistake of adultery. He and I will have to deal with that within our marriage, and we will do so," she said. "He is not a criminal. ... I believe in his innocence."

The case went on until September 2004, when the accuser decided she did not want to testify at a criminal trial (per Washington Post). In a statement on the case's dismissal, Kobe apologized to the accuser, saying, "I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did." Kobe also apologized to Vanessa, in the form of a $4 million purple diamond "apology ring" (per People).

April 2005: Kobe and Vanessa Bryant experienced a difficult loss

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant worked through their difficulties and were able to keep their marriage going. Sadly, they experienced another heartbreaking blow in 2005. The couple learned they were expecting their second child and were happy for some good news to move forward from the ugliness of the year prior. In April 2005, the couple learned Vanessa had experienced an ectopic pregnancy, where a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus (per ESPN).

Kobe missed a few events at the end of the 2004-2005 season to be with Vanessa through testing and treatment. Later, in the 2015 Showtime documentary "Kobe Bryant's Muse," he'd admit to feeling responsible for the loss because of the stress he put Vanessa through with his public admittance of infidelity and legal battle against sexual assault charges. 

"The reality is it happened because of me. That's something I have to deal with," he said in the documentary (per TMZ). "There was just so much stress, she actually, she actually miscarried." He added, "I have a real hard time dealing with that 'cause I felt like it was just my fault."

May 2006: Their daughter Gianna Bryant was born

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant were able to grow their family despite the struggles they experienced. On May 1, 2006, Kobe and Vanessa welcomed Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant at 2:03 a.m. PT, as reported by People. "The arrival of our daughter early this morning is an incredible blessing for me and my family," Kobe said in a statement. "We are all full of beautiful emotions after what has been such an incredible day."

Like with Vanessa's first pregnancy, Kobe found himself balancing his new arrival and basketball season. He won a game against the Phoenix Suns in the last seconds of overtime on April 30 (per ESPN). From there, he went to the hospital where Gianna was born just hours later.

Interestingly, fellow NBA star Shaquille O'Neal also welcomed a baby girl on the same exact day, Me'arah O'Neal, as noted by the Los Angeles Daily News. Fatherhood was believed to be what ended their one-time feud.

2011: They celebrated their 10-year anniversary, but all wasn't rosy

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant's 10th wedding anniversary came and went in April 2011 without much word about the couple. By the end of the year, their struggles would become apparent. Vanessa filed for divorce despite Kobe trying to save the marriage. The reason, according to TMZ, was alleged infidelity by the Lakers superstar. It was also at this point that it became publicly known Kobe did not ask Vanessa to sign a prenup, entitling her to half of everything he'd made in the better portion of his career. 

Vanessa's ex-stepfather, Stephen Laine, famously commented on the split and accused Vanessa of going after cash, like he claimed her mother had done to him. "Her mother taught her well to wait for the ten-year mark [before divorcing]," he told TMZ. "In California ... it's considered a long term marriage and then she gets paid for life or until she remarries ... just like her mother is doing to me."

The two planned on joint custody of Natalia and Gianna, with Kobe having visitation rights (per NBC News). But despite how close they were to ending their relationship, the two had a change of heart.

January 2013: Kobe and Vanessa reconciled

Kobe Bryant continued to pursue his happily ever after with Vanessa, and eventually, the two decided to stay together. Kobe shared the news in January 2013 in a statement shared to his social media accounts. "I am happy to say that Vanessa and I are moving on with our lives together as a family," he wrote. "When the show ends and the music stops, the journey is made beautiful by having that someone to share it with. Thank you all for your support and prayers!"

That Valentine's Day, Kobe made a grand romantic gesture by buying Vanessa the notebook used in the film "The Notebook," as well as the blue dress that Rachel McAdams wore while playing main character Allie (per The Hollywood Reporter). 

"When I asked him why he chose the blue dress, he said it was because it was the scene when Allie comes back to Noah," Vanessa would reveal when paying tribute to Kobe in 2020 (per CinemaBlend). "We had hoped to grow old together like the movie."

2016: Kobe and Vanessa celebrated his retirement and a new baby

In November 2015, Kobe Bryant revealed that he would retire after the 2015-2016 season (per ESPN). It was the end of an era for both Kobe and the Lakers, but the pro was confident it was time to move on. On April 13, 2016, Kobe played his final game as a Los Angeles Laker and NBA professional, scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz (per Sports Illustrated).

That summer, Kobe enjoyed a lot of time with Vanessa, Natalia, and Gianna as he eased into the life of a retired NBA superstar. That July, Kobe and Vanessa announced they were expecting their third child. "Beyond blessed and excited to share that we are expecting our third baby girl!!!" he wrote on Instagram, captioning a photo of a onesie that read "Baby Mamba." 

Bianka Bella Bryant was born at 4:09 p.m. on December 5, 2016, at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach (per TMZ). 

June 2019: Kobe and Vanessa welcomed their fourth daughter, Capri

Kobe and Vanessa weren't done growing their family just yet. On New Year's Day 2019, Kobe surprised fans by posting to Instagram a photo reading, "New Year, New Baby." In the caption, he confirmed the good news that a fourth Bryant baby was on the way. "Vanessa and I are beyond excited to announce that we are expecting another #mambacita to go along with Natalia, Gianna and Bianka," he wrote.

On June 20, 2019, Kobe and Vanessa welcomed daughter Capri Kobe Bryant at 12:21 a.m. (per The Blast). 

Many people were happy for the couple, but were curious if he wanted a son. "I think [Vanessa] wants a boy more than I do," he told Extra in March 2019, joking about having a starting five under his own roof. "I love having girls — I'm super, super excited about that. She is as well. She wanted a boy so he can be mama's boy forever — that sort of thing. We'll see if I can deliver, I don't know."

November 2019: Kobe celebrated 20 years with Vanessa

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant were enjoying settling into their life as a family of six when Kobe took time out to celebrate a special occasion. November 28, 2019 marked 20 years to the day that he first met Vanessa on the set of a music video. 

"On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant," he captioned a photoset on Instagram, showing them in 1999 and again in 2019. "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."

The sweet moment was all the more heartbreaking in hindsight. Just under two months after that post, Kobe Bryant's death would shock and horrify so many who rooted for the couple to get their happy ending during the second act of the 41-year-old's life.

January 26, 2020: The Bryant family was rocked by tragedy

Kobe Bryant, 13-year-old Gianna Bryant, and seven others tragically died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020 (per ESPN). The helicopter was transporting Kobe, Gianna, and others to Thousand Oaks for the team's game. 

Vanessa Bryant was told there was an accident and it was unclear if Kobe and Gianna were safe. She tried to reach her husband, but was unable to. She then called her mother to watch her two youngest daughters while she picked up 17-year-old Natalia from an ACT prep class, according to documents obtained by Us Weekly. Vanessa soon started getting notifications on her phone that Kobe and Gianna had died, though it would be some time before authorities confirmed the news to Vanessa at a sheriff's station in Malibu.

In one of his last media appearances on the "All the Smoke" podcast, Kobe shared the secret to their long-lasting marriage. "Commitment and competitiveness of 'We're going to succeed,'" he shared. "That's all 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."