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.
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.
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We celebrate 12 years of marriage today. This pic is the day I asked @ladyvb24 for her number 11/28/99. Thru the ups and downs she has been my love and best friend. 20 and 17 yrs old when we met, we have actually grown up together. A true honor and a blessing. Ti Amo Queen Mamba :-)
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”.