Vanessa Bryant/Instagram Kobe and Vanessa Bryant
Vanessa Bryant wished Kobe Bryant a happy birthday on Tuesday on the basketball legend’s 44th birthday.
Vanessa, 40, took to Instagram to share a sweet snap of the pair cuddled up to celebrate the day.
“Happy birthday baby! I love and miss you so much! #44 ❤️,” Vanessa captioned the smiling photo of the couple. In the snap, Kobe is seen wearing a baseball cap and a 2009 NBA championship winning T-shirt by his team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
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The couple were 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. Gianna followed in 2006.
Following Kobe’s retirement from the NBA after 20 seasons, which he announced via a poem in The Players’ Tribune on November 29, 2015, he and Vanessa welcomed two more daughters, Bianca in 2016 and Capri in 2019.
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Vanessa and Kobe Bryant in 2019
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Daughter Natalia also shared a beautiful and heartbreaking photo of her and her father sitting in the yard at what appeared to be a basketball game. “Daddy! ♥️,” she captioned it. She also noted that she didn’t know who took the adorable photo, but hoped to find out.
Kobe’s sister, Sharia Washington, also paid tribute to her late brother on Tuesday, sharing a series of photos on Instagram.
“8.23.78 You were born for greatness. ❤️ Happy Birthday Bean! #44,” she wrote alongside a carousel of pictures of the siblings. “Many people say they want to be great, but they are unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve greatness.” – KB.”
The post included photos spanning years in the brothers’ lives.
Earlier this year, Vanessa shared an old photo of the couple in honor of their 21st wedding anniversary.
“Love you forever baby,” Vanessa captioned the photo of herself wrapping her arms around the NBA legend from behind. “Happy Birthday @kobebryant#21 ❤️❤️”
In March 2021, Vanessa told PEOPLE that her daughters help her “smile through the pain” and give her strength through heartbreak and grief.
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“This pain is unimaginable [but] you just have to get up and push forward. Lying in bed and 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 will make the day better for my girls and for me. So that’s what I do,” he said.
Speaking of “finding the light in the darkness,” Vanessa also shared how the legacies of her late daughter and husband 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 LA County, which she is suing for emotional distress and mental anguish over the graphic images leaked following the fatal 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband, their daughter Gianna and seven others.