In a 2015 Showtime documentary, the late Kobe Bryant opened up about falling in love with his eventual wife, Vanessa Urbieta Cornejo Laine, on the set of his music video in 1999.
In Kobe Bryant’s Muse, a film directed by Gotham Chopra that explored the life of the NBA legend, Bryant joyfully recalled meeting Vanessa just three years after joining the Lakers.
“For those that don’t know, yes, I had budding music career as a rapper,” Bryant said while laughing. “It didn’t last long, but I did make a video. On the video set is where I first met Vanessa.”
“It was a two-day video shoot, and I was always looking for her, like I wanted to know where she was. 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.”
This interest eventually led to Bryant asking for Vanessa’s number, and the two would share hours-long phone conversations as they got to know each other. One of the things they bonded over was their love of Disney.
“She was just beautiful. We literally did everything together. Everything together. And I thought I was a big dork because I loved Disneyland,” Bryant 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.”
But their blossoming relationship was something unfamiliar to Bryant, he admitted.
“For me, it was very different to have somebody that I was so close to, because I had been so used to growing up in isolation, really,” Bryant said. “Moving around from place to place, making new friends all the time, so I never really opened up to anybody because I knew I was just going to inevitably move.”
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“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,” he added.
Bryant would soon become a household name after winning three straight NBA championships with the Lakers.
The two got engaged when Vanessa turned 18, and then married on April 18, 2001.
“We decided to get married, I proposed and she said yes. We’re both so young, right?” Bryant said of that time. “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.”
They soon welcomed their first daughter, Natalia, on Jan. 19, 2003.
The couple went on to have three other children together: Gianna, 13, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months. Bryant retired from professional basketball in 2016.
The NBA legend died in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash that killed Gianna and seven others. The two were on their way to a youth basketball game in Thousand Oaks when their helicopter crashed amid foggy conditions in Calabasas, California and burst into flames.
The two died alongside pilot Ara Zobayan, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa Altobelli.
Kobe Bryant’s Muse is available to stream on Showtime.