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Vanessa Bryant was 17 when she met Kobe. They spent the next 20 years by each other's side.

On Vanessa’s 18th birthday, she said yes to marrying Kobe Bryant.

A then 21-year-old Kobe was a rising star in the world of basketball and already hugely famous. He would go on to become one of the best athletes the sport has ever seen.

READ: “An unthinkable day.” NBA great Kobe Bryant and his 13yo daughter Gigi have been killed in a helicopter crash.

When they started dating in 1999, after meeting on the set of a Snoop Dog video that she was modelling in, Vanessa was only 17 and still a senior in high school. Kobe was there because he (at the time) fancied a side hustle career as a rapper.

Their relationship caused such a media frenzy, Vanessa had to miss her own prom because of the hordes of journalists staking out her campus.

Six months after their engagement, in 2001, the couple married in a low-key ceremony.

As the Orlando Sentinel reported in 2003, Kobe’s parents and sister didn’t attend the wedding, unhappy at how young the couple were to be making such a big commitment.

Kobe also revealed that his father was uncomfortable that Vanessa was Latina, not African American. According to various media reports, his relationship with his mum and dad remained tumultuous up until his death.

His teammates and agent also didn’t attend. Kobe said he didn’t want a prenuptial agreement because he “loved her too much for one”.

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In 2003, Vanessa and Kobe welcomed their first child together.

Natalia Diamante Bryant was born on January 19 of that year.

She turned 17 just days before her father’s death. Despite her father’s basketball fame, Natalia grew up without a passion for the game, but with a preference and skill for volleyball.

 

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Happy Birthday my baby. I love you beyond measure. You will always be my little Principessa #17

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

In July 2003, just a few months after Natalia was born, Kobe was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman at a Colorado hotel.

The basketballer admitted to being unfaithful but denied the sexual assault. The criminal case was ultimately dismissed, when his accuser dropped the case.

At a press conference held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Vanessa sat by Kobe as he professed his love to her.

“I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery,” he said. “I love my wife with all my heart. She’s my backbone.”

Kobe Bryant Speaks in Response to Felony Sexual Assualt Charges
Kobe Bryant and wife Vanessa at the 2003 Staples Center press conference. Image: Kirby Lee/WireImage/Getty.
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The couple made headlines after the fact, when Vanessa received an eight-carat purple diamond ring worth $4 million after the case was dropped.

In 2005, Vanessa suffered a miscarriage due to an ectopic pregnancy, and then gave birth to the couple's second daughter Gianna "Gigi" Maria-Onore Bryant in 2006.

Gigi, who died alongside her father in the helicopter crash this year, aged just 13, shared her dad's love for basketball showing signs of being a promising young star in her own right.

As news of the tragedy spreads, tributes are flowing in including this one from basketball rival Doc Rivers. Post continue after video.

Video by NBATV

Speaking to the All the Smoke podcast just two weeks ago, Kobe said his daughter's love for the sport reinvigorated him post retirement to experience and appreciate basketball in a different way.

"We just had so much fun because it was the first time I was seeing the game through her eyes. It wasn't me sitting there you know as an athlete or a player or something like that, and you know it's like about me, and I don't like that. It was her, she was having such a good time," he said.

 

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Happy 13th birthday my Gigi! I love you beyond measure baby #teen #daddysgirl #tauro #mambacita

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

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In 2011, after a decade of marriage, Vanessa filed for divorce from Kobe citing "irreconcilable differences".

There were various reports at the time, including from TMZ, that she had caught him cheating again. A Playboy model as well as with one of the producers of the Kardashians’ reality show were said to be among those he cheated with, reported Business Insider.

As news of their impending divorce broke, and it was reported Vanessa was seeking half his fortune and their Newport Coast, California, mansion. They were looking at joint-custody of their daughters.

His fortune at the time was an estimated AUD $293 million.

By 2013, however, the divorce was called off.

"We are pleased to announce that we have reconciled," Vanessa wrote on Instagram at the time. "Our divorce action will be dismissed. We are looking forward to our future together."

Kobe posted a message on his Facebook page the same day that read, "I am happy to say that Vanessa and I are moving on with our lives together as a family. When the show ends and the music stops, the journey is made beautiful by having that someone to share it with. Thank you all for your support and prayers."

They've remained happily married ever since, welcoming two more daughters, Bianka Bella Bryant in 2016 and Capri Kobe Bryant just last year.

 

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My Bianka Bella Bryant (BBB) ????????????????

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Vanessa wrote last year announcing their newest arrival; “Kobe and I are so happy to add another baby blessing to our family!

"Bianka will have a new baby sibling to play with and Natalia and Gianna are super excited to welcome another little baby sister to love.”

 

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My babies

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

When Kobe announced his plans to retire in 2016, Vanessa was right by his side.

“I’m so excited to see what God has in store for us as a family now that one chapter is closing and new ones are opening,” she wrote.

Vanessa's Instagram account, which has 1.4 million followers including the Kardashians and actress Jessica Alba, has been on private since news of her husband's death.

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On his own account, Kobe's feed is bursting with admiration for his family, filled with birthday messages, Halloween costumes and photos from Christmases and celebrations which he has shared with his more than 14 million followers.

Only eight weeks ago, he commemorated he and his wife's first meeting, posting, "On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen.

"I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style."

Since his retirement, Kobe was on school pick-up duty at 2pm every day, according to his last ever interview with USA Today.

His wife Vanessa, 37, must now contemplate life as a single mum of three, the youngest of which is not even a year old.

When her husband and daughter died, they were reportedly on their way to one of Gigi's basketball games - the sport she shared with her beloved dad.

Seven others also died in the crash, their names are yet to be released.

Vanessa has made no public statement.

Feature image: Instagram/Getty.

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