Vanessa Bryant Calls Late Husband Kobe Her 'Eternal Love' on His 43rd Birthday: 'Love You Forever'

vanessa and kobe bryant
vanessa and kobe bryant

Vanessa Bryant/instagram Kobe and Vanessa Bryant

Kobe Bryant will never be forgotten by his late wife Vanessa Bryant.

On Monday, which would've been the NBA icon's 43rd birthday, the mother of four, 39, shared an emotional tribute on social media. "Happy birthday, Papi. Te Amo por siempre. Amor Eterno," Vanessa wrote, calling Kobe her "eternal love."

The couple was married for two decades after first meeting on the set of a music video in 1999 when Kobe was 20 and Vanessa was 17.

"Happy Birthday Daddy," their eldest daughter Natalia, 18, captioned a 2004 photo of herself and her late father on Instagram.

The night prior, on Sunday, Vanessa and her daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri, went to Disneyland and Disneyland's California Adventure park as a family. "Always with me," the matriarch wrote on Instagram, along with showing off bracelets that spell out the names of her daughters, including her late daughter Gianna, and Kobe.

On Jan. 26, 2020, Kobe, Gianna, 13, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The crash also claimed the lives of 13-year-old Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, 46, 14-year-old Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, 46, John Altobelli, 56, Christina Mauser, 38, and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.

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Also on Monday, Kobe's sister, Sharia Washington, shared photos from his childhood in honor of his birthday.

"8.23.2021 I should be texting you funny memes about getting old and gray and laughing at your smartass comebacks. Just one of your many talents 😉 We celebrate you today and everyday as you continue to inspire so many people all around the world. Happy birthday Bean! Thank you for always keeping real! Love you always!" Washington wrote on Instagram, along with an old commercial of the sibling pair playing basketball.

Last year, Aug. 24 was named "Kobe Bryant Day," a date that features the two jersey numbers (8 and 24) that the late NBA legend wore during his 20-year career.

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Following his death, Vanessa took up the leadership of Granity Studios, her late husband's multi-media company, and relaunched the charitable non-profit Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, dedicated to the father-daughter duo, which helps empower young girls and provide equal opportunities to underserved athletes.

In May, Vanessa continued to carry on Kobe's legacy when she accepted his posthumous Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame honor as part of the 2020 class. "There will never be anyone like Kobe. Kobe was one of a kind. He was special, he was humble off the court but bigger than life," she said in her 12-minute speech at the annual event, which was originally scheduled to take place in August 2020, but was delayed by the COVID pandemic.

"To all of our close friends and family that have been present for my girls and I, thank you. That list is long and it takes a village but know that your kindness and love does not go unappreciated. I know that Kobe is thankful that you're all coming through for his girls," she added.

In March, Vanessa told PEOPLE that her daughters help her "smile through the pain" and give her strength amid heartbreak and grief.

"This pain is unimaginable [but] you just have to get up and push forward. 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," she said.

Speaking about "finding the light in darkness," Vanessa also shared how her late daughter and husband's legacies live on. "The best way to describe it is that Kobe and Gigi motivate me to keep going. They inspire me to try harder and be better every day. Their love is unconditional and they motivate me in so many different ways," she said.