Gianna Bryant’s teammates were among the thousands who gathered at the Staples Center on Friday as the Lakers played their first game following the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of the young basketball player, her father Kobe Bryant, and seven others.
The 13-year-old’s Mamba Academy Teammates sat in the front row of the game, which the Lakers ultimately lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 127-117.
In addition to Gianna, the crash also claimed the lives of Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, both 13, who were also teammates of Gianna’s, as well as Christina Mauser, an assistant coach for the team.
Among the emotional tributes that took place ahead of the game, Gianna’s and her father’s jerseys were illuminated at the stadium and two courtside seats were left open in honor of the pair. Each of their jerseys were laid on the seats along with bouquets of red roses.
As the Lakers took to the court, Vanessa Bryant, who was not in attendance, remembered her “angels.”
“There is no #24 without #2,” Vanessa, 37, wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of her daughter and husband’s jerseys on their seats at the game, adding: “❤️#GirlDaddy #DaddysGirl #MyBabies ❤️❤️ #OurAngels.”
Shortly after the game began, she also shared a photo of a purple and gold sunset, a nod to the team’s colors.
Vanessa spoke out for the first time since the crash on Wednesday, telling fans that she is “devastated” over the loss of her “adoring” husband, 41, and their “beautiful, sweet” daughter Gianna.
“We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri,” she said. “I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”
Vanessa also revealed that a fund for the families of the seven other victims had been set up through the Mamba Sports Foundation called the MambaOnThree Fund.
Ahead of Friday’s game, the NBA announced that they would be making a $100,000 donation to the foundation in partnership with the National Basketball Players Association.
The NBA also announced that the jerseys for the 2020 All-Star Game will feature a special tribute to all of victims of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash.
One team, represented by James, will wear No. 2 on their jerseys, in memory of Gianna, who wore the number as a member of the Mamba Sports Academy. The other, represented Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, will wear No. 24 in honor of Bryant, who wore the number in the latter half of his career.
Both teams will wear patches with nine stars to represent all who were lost in the crash.