Vanessa Bryant Wishes Kobe A Happy 44th Birthday: 'I Love You'

Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant
Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant

Vanessa Bryant/Instagram Kobe and Vanessa Bryant

Vanessa Bryant on Tuesday wished Kobe Bryant a happy birthday on what would have been the basketball legend's 44th birthday.

Vanessa, 40, took to Instagram to share a sweet photo of the couple embracing in celebration of the day.

"Happy birthday, baby! I love you and miss you so much! #44 ❤️," Vanessa wrote as a caption accompanying the smiling photo of the pair. In the snap, Kobe is seen wearing a baseball hat and a 2009 NBA Championships T-shirt which his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, won.

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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. They married on April 18, 2001, in Dana Point, California before welcoming their first child, Natalia in 2003 followed by Gianna in 2006.

Following Kobe's retirement from the NBA after 20 seasons, which he announced via a poem on The Players' Tribune on Nov. 29, 2015, he and Vanessa welcomed two more daughters, Bianka in 2016 and Capri in 2019.

vanessa and kobe bryant
vanessa and kobe bryant

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Vanessa and Kobe Bryant in 2019

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Daughter Natalia also shared a beautiful and heartbreaking picture of herself and her father sitting courtside at what appeared to be a basketball game. "Daddy! ♥️," she wrote in the caption. She also noted that she did not know who snapped the adorable picture, but she was hoping to find out.

Kobe's sister, Sharia Washington, also honored her late-brother Tuesday by sharing a series of throwback shots on Instagram.

"8.23.78 You were born for greatness. ❤️ Happy birthday Bean! #44," she wrote accompanying a carousel of images of the siblings. "'A lot of people say they want to be great, but they're not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness.' - KB."

The post included photos spanning years in the siblings' lives.

Sharia Washington, Kobe Bryant
Sharia Washington, Kobe Bryant

Sharia Washington/Instagram

Earlier this year, Vanessa shared an old photo of the couple in honor of their 21st wedding anniversary.

"I love you forever, baby," Vanessa captioned the photo of herself wrapping her arms around the NBA legend from behind. "Happy Anniversary @kobebryant#21 ❤️❤️"

In March 2021, Vanessa told PEOPLE that her daughters help her "smile through the pain" and give her strength amid heartbreak and grief.

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"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.

The basketball legend's birthday comes amid Vanessa's ongoing lawsuit against L.A. County, who she is suing for emotional distress and mental anguish regarding leaked graphic images following the 2020 fatal helicopter crash that killed her husband, their daughter Gianna and seven others.