Facing a long road ahead of her, NBA star Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, is “relying on her faith” to get her through the untimely deaths of her husband and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Bryant and “Gigi” were killed along with seven others Sunday morning during a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Friends of Vanessa said she is struggling to “keep it together.”
“It’s an extremely difficult and devastating time for Vanessa and the whole family,” a friend of the family told People. “She can’t finish a sentence without crying. But she is working very hard to pull it together for the other girls. She now has to be the strong one.”
Bryant and Gigi leave behind Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
The former Los Angeles Laker’s daughters are struggling, too. Another friend said Bryant “had a special bond” with each of his four children.
In November of last year, Bryant told Maria Shriver that being a father “ is the thing I am most proud of in this world,” describing it as his “greatest accomplishment.”
“I’ve learned so much, but perhaps the most profound thing has been the fierce, unconditional love you have for your children when you become a parent,” he said. “I’m blessed to have had that experience four times now and there’s nothing more powerful in this world.”
“Being a dad has given me a different perspective on sports,” Bryant continued. “I can see the effects on players who haven’t been taught the right way — physically, mentally and emotionally — and I want something better for my children. It goes back to why I’m so focused on storytelling in sports, as well as coaching. The passion for it all stems from my four girls.”
It was his passion for his daughters and for Vanessa, who he called his “Queen,” that led Bryant to start relying on helicopters for travel. Often trapped in Los Angeles traffic, Bryant explained last year to Alex Rodriguez, he “had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time.” The answer was helicopter rides.
As for Bryant’s faith, he was devoutly Catholic.
Bryant offered a glimpse into his deeply held convictions during a 2006 interview with sports analyst Stephen A. Smith. At the time, Bryant was in a dark place; he had just settled out of court with an accuser who charged him with felony assault.
Smith asked the famous athlete what he learned from the experience.
“God is great,” Bryant replied.
The “Quite Frankly” host asked Bryant if it’s “really that simple,” if he really believes deeply that God “is great.” Bryant told him “it doesn’t get much simpler than that.”
“You can know it all you want, but until you have to pick up that cross that you can’t carry and he picks it up for you and carries you and the cross, then you know,” he explained.
Bryant did ultimately admit to being unfaithful to his wife, though he maintained the 2003 sexual encounter between him and his accuser was consensual. In 2015, Bryant told GQ that the issue really challenged his faith, calling it a “turning point” in his life.
It has been speculated Bryant and Gigi attended Sunday Mass the morning of their tragic deaths.
David Barnes, who describes himself as a Catholic priest and director of the Catholic Newman Center at Boston University, wrote on Twitter that a friend texted him to tell him “a friend of hers saw Kobe Bryant at Catholic Mass this morning.”
Please be in prayer for the Bryant family, for Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, Capri, and the family and friends who will surround them during this season of grieving.