Natalia Bryant gave a heartwarming speech at a recent ceremony honoring her late father, Kobe Bryant. Her words flowed during the unveiling of a permanent exhibition of Kobe’s handprints and footprints.
In 2011, Kobe became the first professional athlete to leave his mark printed on the cement at TCL Chinese Theatre. As of Wednesday, the prints will remain displayed in the venue’s forecourt. During her speech, Bryant’s eldest daughter said it’s “only fitting” her father was the first, given how much he “loved and cared” for Los Angeles.
“While most people knew him as a basketball player or a stroyteller, I got to know and love him as my dad,” Natalia shared. “And let me tell you he is the MVP of girl dads to say the least.”
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Though we’ve often seen Natalia attending tributes for the NBA champ and her late sister Gianna, her recent speech is one of the few times we’ve heard her speak about him publicly since their deaths. Typically, her mother, Vanessa Bryant, takes the mic. She told PEOPLE in March 2021 that she isn’t “strong everyday,” but revealed that “finding the light in darkness” moves her forward.
“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,” Vanessa said.
Natalia Says Kobe Was ‘An Icon, Legend, Storyteller, And Best Girl Dad’
A few months later, in September 2021, Natalia opened up to Teen Vogue about coping with the loss. She revealed that she quit volleyball and her dreams of being a D1 athlete after the deaths because “a lot was going on at that time.” At the time, she also spoke about how her remaining family members–Vanessa, Bianka, and Capri–were doing.
“You do the best that you can,” Bryant told Teen Vogue. “[For] my little sisters [we’re] trying to keep that memory for them. And also just trying to remember to live out every day the way they would.”
As previously reported, a California helicopter crash claimed the lives of nine people, including Kobe and Gianna, in January 2020. Earlier this month, Vanessa settled a lawsuit against Los Angeles County for the circulation of the crash site and victim photos by sheriff and fire department officials. Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri will receive $28.85 million of the more than $50 million payout LA County will give to four affected families.
At the TCL Chinese Theatre ceremony, Natalia was joined by her mother and two little sisters. After the unveiling, Bianka and Capri placed their hands and feet in their father’s imprints, per NBC Los Angeles.
In her speech, Natalia encouraged theatre visitors to “place [their] hands in his and take a moment to stand in his shoes.”
“Dad, you’re an icon, a legend, a storyteller, and most importantly, the best girl dad any young woman could ever dream of,” Bryant said. “I’m honored to be here to represent you and our family and we are extremely proud of you. We will love you forever and always. Love Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, Capri and Mommy.