Kobe, Gianna and seven others died in a Calabasas helicopter accident in 2020
In an Instagram post, Vanessa, 41, shared a photo of Kobe smiling with his arm wrapped around Gianna, sharing "❤️❤️" in the caption. The same photo was shared on the Los Angeles Lakers Instagram account with the caption, "Forever 💜."
On the morning of Jan. 26, 2020, Kobe, Gianna, and seven of their friends boarded a helicopter from John Wayne Airport in Orange County to a basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks. Only 14 miles from their destination, the flight crashed into a Calabasas hillside likely due to pilot error, as a yearlong National Transportation Safety Board investigation found. Kobe, Gianna, pilot Ara Zobayan, Christina Mauser, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, and Peyton Chester all perished in the accident. At the time, Kobe was 41, and Gianna was 13.
For the first anniversary of their death, Vanessa shared a heartfelt note from one of Gianna’s best friends, Audrey. “I love you Aubz (as my Gigi would call you). Thank you so much for beautifully sharing some of your memories of my Gigi with me and allowing me to share them here on my ig,” Vanessa wrote in the caption.
She continued, “I will never understand why/how this tragedy could've happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn't seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you!”
Vanessa — who shares three other daughters with Kobe, Natalia, 21, Bianka, 7 and Capri, 4 — spoke to PEOPLE for the 2021 Women Changing the World issue about moving on from her “unimaginable” pain. She said, "Lying in bed crying isn't going to change the fact that my family will never be the same again. But getting out of bed and pushing forward is going to make the day better for my girls and for me. So that's what I do.”
To continue the legacy of her late husband and daughter, Vanessa leads the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting underserved child athletes.
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"I want to make Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka and Capri proud,” she told PEOPLE.
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