Vanessa Bryant thanks supporters in wake of Kobe, Gianna deaths

Vanessa Bryant has yet to speak publicly since her husband, Kobe Bryant, and daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday, but on Wednesday she thanked well-wishers in a statement on Instagram.

FILE PHOTO: Flowers and photos of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna “Gigi” are placed near the Staples Center to pay tribute after a helicopter crash killed the retired basketball star and his daughter, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot

Earlier Wednesday, Vanessa Bryant changed her Instagram profile picture to one of her husband and daughter hugging.

Vanessa Bryant also made her Instagram page public when she released the new profile picture. She had set her account to private after the crash.

Later posting a photo of her with her husband and their four daughters, she wrote, in part, “My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.

“We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately.

“There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”

The NBA legend and his 13-year-old daughter were two of nine people killed when the helicopter they were in crashed on a hillside in Calabasas, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles.

In the first image posted Wednesday by Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant is wearing an NBA All-Star warmup shirt and Gianna is wearing a basketball jersey with the No. 24 on the back. Kobe Bryant wore No. 24 at the time the photo was taken.

Vanessa and Kobe Bryant married in 2001.

Also on Wednesday, Lakers guard Quinn Cook changed his number to honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Previously No. 2, Cook will now wear No. 28 — the 8 honoring Kobe Bryant and the 2 honoring Gianna. The younger Bryant wore No. 2 and Kobe Bryant wore both 8 and 24 in his career. The Lakers retired both numbers after Bryant’s retirement and both hang from the Staples Center rafters.

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team honored Gianna earlier this week by placing a No. 2 jersey on its bench. Gianna had said she wanted to one day play at UConn.

Numerous players have asked the NBA to forgo its customary requirement for players to give the league months of notice for number changes so they can honor Kobe Bryant, and thus far the league has done so.

The NBA postponed Tuesday’s scheduled game between the Lakers and Clippers — what would have been the Lakers’ first game since the crash. Instead, the Lakers are scheduled to return to the court on Friday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Reporters at the Lakers’ facility on Wednesday posted photos of a soft light being shone on Bryant’s Nos. 8 and 24 painted on the walls.

—Field Level Media

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