Over a year has passed since the sudden and tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, and the world is still grieving their loss.
But this week, Meek Mill has hit headlines for his "disrespectful" lyrics about the late star. Now, Bryant's widow Vanessa has spoken out. Here's the full story...
January 26th, 2020, was a dark day for the world.
NBA great, Kobe Bryant, and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, were killed when their helicopter crashed into a California hillside.
It had started as a routine trip to one of Gianna's basketball games.
Kobe, forty-one, and his daughter, who was herself a budding basketball player, were accompanied in the private helicopter by Orange Coast College baseball coach, John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, their teenage daughter, Alyssa, Sarah Chester, and her daughter, Payton; and Christina Mauser, an assistant coach.
Many believed that Gianna was set to follow in her father's footsteps.
From childhood, she would participate in the team warm-ups, and, going by her skill displayed on the court, she was set to have an illustrious basketball career ahead of her.
Their flight took off in clear skies in Orange County...
But it eventually encountered fog so thick that it nearly blinded drivers on the freeway. Visibility was so poor, in fact, that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its fleet of helicopters.
In his last message before the crash, the pilot told air traffic control he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer...
And witnesses on the ground reported seeing the helicopter flying through a layer of clouds and fog seconds before it crashed.
It has since emerged that the helicopter fell at a rate of about twenty-three-miles per hour...
And slammed into the hill in a "high-energy impact crash," according to the N.T.S.B.
Nobody onboard survived.
Footage from the aftermath of the crash was quick to circulate online...
And, even more quickly, the rumors regarding Kobe and Gianna started to emerge.
It was truly harrowing...
Not only because Kobe opted for helicopters as his most regular use of transport, but that the very aircraft that had crashed had actually transported him to his last ever Lakers game in 2016.
The tributes were quick to flood in from all over the globe...
But, of course, all focus was quickly directed to Kobe's surviving wife and daughters.
He left behind his wife, Vanessa Bryant, and their 3 remaining daughters, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.
In the aftermath of the accident, Vanessa wrote on Instagram:
"I've been reluctant to put my feelings into words. My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone. I can't process both at the same time. It's like I'm trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me. It feels wrong."
And, nearly a month on from the tragedy, Vanessa gave her first public speech.
Friends, family, former teammates, and legions of fans packed the Staples Center as Vanessa said goodbye to her husband and daughter.
"Babe, you take care of our Gigi - I got Nani, BB, and Coco. We're still the best team."
Fellow Lakers star and close friend of Kobe's, Michael Jordan, also spoke at the memorial...
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died."— ABC News (@ABC) February 25, 2020
Michael Jordan, a close friend of Kobe Bryant, wiped tears away as he spoke at the NBA legend's memorial service. https://t.co/QNxOZMLziQ pic.twitter.com/n7bydR23kT
And, through tears, said:
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could."
Well, a year has now passed since the devastating event...
And the loss is certainly no easier.
The past twelve months have been undeniably difficult for Kobe's surviving family...
And, on Kobe's first birthday since his death, Vanessa wrote a heartfelt message on Instagram that only highlighted her pain further:
"To my baby. Happy birthday. I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain. I wish you and Gigi were here to celebrate YOU! I wish I could make you your fav food or a birthday cake with my Gigi. I miss your big hugs, your kisses, your smile, your loud ass deep laugh. I miss teasing you, making you laugh, and bursting your bubble. I miss you sitting on my lap like my big baby that you are. I think about your tenderness and patience all the time."
Her message continued:
"I picture your smile and wide big welcoming hugs daily. God, I miss you both so much. Our lives feel so empty without you and Gigi. I've been completely broken inside. As much as I want to cry, I put a smile on my face to make our daughter's days shine a little brighter. I'm not the strong one, they are."
And last month, on the anniversary of the deaths of her husband and daughter, she wrote this:
"I will never understand why/how this tragedy could've happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn't seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you!"
Of course, countless tributes from friends of Kobe and fans alike flooded in on the anniversary...
However, fresh rumors did too.
Speculation surrounding the crash has been rife.
It is well known now that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was only legally allowed to fly under Visual Flight Rules, which meant that he needed to be able to see where he was going - however, he couldn't that day because of the heavy fog that had landed over L.A, grounding most air traffic.
The pilot did not declare an emergency, nor did he try to turn the helicopter around to land at an airport...
The pilot had years upon years of experience. For whatever reason he didn’t request a IFR flight plan and instead went VFR. To be honest, never should’ve taken off in those weather conditions— Eyes in the Sky (@mario_geiser) February 9, 2021
This ultimately lead some to speculate that he had been placed under pressure to complete the journey by Bryant, or someone else on board.
We will never know what happened onboard the aircraft that day...
I was there that day. It was incredibly foggy. Such a tragic accident. 😔— Jenny Malone (@JSSTweets22) February 9, 2021
But now, federal investigators have come forward with new details that could provide some insight.
Earlier this month, they said this:
"There was no evidence that Island Express, the air charter broker or the client [Kobe Bryant] placed pressure on the pilot to accept the charter flight request or complete the flight and adverse weather."
Instead, all of the evidence that was discussed at the virtual NTSB meeting pointed to pilot error and pressure that he might have put on himself to not let Bryant down.
But recently, an unlikely figure has become a part of this story.
Rapper Meek Mill hit headlines for his lyrics about Kobe.
Many were shocked, but now Kobe's late wife Vanessa has spoken out.
I been Meek Mill PR Manager since the Drake beef I done pulled my hair out 258 times in the last 6 years— .... (@whogotps5) February 23, 2021
Meek mill always saying some dumb ass shit😭😭😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/FQ64P5HrQk— bloutgoggles (@bloutgoggles) February 23, 2021
peep the difference to meek mill responding to a female & a man pic.twitter.com/ioP6t5KYja— Nateclips (@NATERERUN) February 23, 2021
usually DL men don’t get me too upset but Meek Mill be having me see red... no shade— LB (@lnbshr) February 23, 2021
Drake brought meek mill back to life just for meek to get killed again by 6ix9ine and Vanessa Bryant pic.twitter.com/rX0ovT1ZZI— Q'ghar JaQen (@I_AM_N0_0NE_) February 23, 2021
Vanessa Bryant to meek mill: “I am not familiar with any of your music” pic.twitter.com/ZJnZ09dauX— appas burner (@AppasBurner) February 23, 2021
vanessa bryant don’t know none of meek mill music and i think that’s powerful pic.twitter.com/6XozA7SX5o— 𝐣𝐯𝐬𝐭𝐣𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐧 (@simplyjordn) February 23, 2021
Apologize to Vanessa Bryant pic.twitter.com/TLqpi15MEe— Most hated e-bish (@EmpressKate8) February 23, 2021
Vanessa Bryant when she catches Meek Mill pic.twitter.com/QX7qQlldXp— Z 🌟 (@okokalrightZain) February 23, 2021
Vanessa Bryant talking about Meek Mill like pic.twitter.com/rFGa6l2zcp— Rich (@UptownDCRich) February 23, 2021
Meek Mill to his PR person every day pic.twitter.com/StO2v3YLdy— kyle/Free agent nba fan (@knicks_tape99) February 23, 2021
Meek Mill’s publicist over the last few weeks pic.twitter.com/F3SwCLUd1M— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) February 23, 2021
Meek Mill has been in hot water for lyrics in his song "Don't Worry."
"Yeah, and if I ever lack, I'm goin' out with my chopper, it be another Kobe."
And Vanessa Bryant hit back with this.
We have to agree.