Tragic Details About Vanessa Bryant

The death of Kobe Bryant was a painful reminder of the ephemeral nature of life. For so many people, the idea that the much loved NBA star was no longer with us seemed impossible to fathom. As NBC News points out, grieving for celebrities is real grief, and as celebrity deaths go, Bryant's was one of the most earth-shattering.

Throughout his career and all-too-brief adult life, Bryant had his loyal wife Vanessa by his side. Although she usually kept a low profile, Vanessa was never afraid of speaking her mind when she felt the circumstances called for it. Famously, she wore a t-shirt that read "Do I look Illegal?" to a Lakers game in protest of immigration laws. And when she spoke to The Cut in 2012, she made no secret of her unabashed love for all things bling. But of course there's so much more to Vanessa than her slogan tees and enviable wardrobe. With her husband, she founded the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation to aid disadvantaged children.

It seemed that Vanessa was living the dream. Despite her chirpy demeanor, however, she had to contend with familial strife (which has continued to this day), public hate, and harassment. And then, of course, there was the devastating, unforgettable tragedy of January 26 2020. She's certainly been through it, but Vanessa is using her grief for good, keeping the memories of her husband and daughter, Gianna, alive through her clothing line and NBA ventures. These are the tragic details about Vanessa Bryant.

Vanessa Bryant's early struggles

When Vanessa Bryant was a baby, her parents divorced, per Los Angeles Times. Bryant hardly knew her father and was raised by a single mom for some time. Her mom later remarried, to Stephen Laine, whose name Bryant took when she was in high school. The working class family faced financial turmoil. When Bryant was a teenager, her mom lost her job and was unable to work due to chronic illness, while her stepdad was in significant debt. Eventually, they had no choice but to declare bankruptcy. 

Much like her relationship with her biological father, her relationship with Laine soon grew strained. When she acquired some wealth, Bryant accused Laine of being jealous of the luxury items she lavished upon her mother, Sofia. Amid this turmoil, her mom and Laine divorced, with Bryant growing increasingly exhausted by family politics. Accordingly, the Laine family explained that Bryant cut off contact with them once she became known as Mrs. Kobe Bryant. 

According to documents obtained by The New York Post, Laine was accused of cheating on Bryant's mom. In 2011, her relationship with her estranged stepfather reached breaking point when Laine trashed her to the press. Speaking with TMZ, he claimed that Bryant was a golddigger. "Her mother taught her well to wait for the ten-year mark [before divorcing]," he rather shadily asserted. "In California... it's considered a long term marriage and then she gets paid for life or until she remarries... just like her mother is doing to me."

Both Kobe and Vanessa's families disapproved of their relationship

Per Esquire, Kobe Bryant first met the erstwhile Vanessa Urbieta Cornejo Laine when she was in high school. Vanessa was 17 at the time, while her beau was 21. While the twosome fell deeply in love, their relationship was met with disapproval from their respective families. Stephen Laine, Vanessa's stepfather, was concerned by the fact that his teen stepdaughter was dating a man in his 20s. "He was an adult and she was only 17, and it was like, hey, wait a minute," he told Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, Kobe's family were just as displeased with his choice of partner. Particularly unhappy was his father, Joe, a former NBA player who reportedly shunned his son due to his relationship with Vanessa. As the Orlando Sentinel notes, Joe disliked the fact that Vanessa was Latina and would have preferred if Kobe was with an African-American partner. "Once he decided to get married, it's his life now," Joe bluntly told the outlet, adding, "We've got nothing to do with it. We've done our job."

When the couple wed, none of Kobe's family members — including his own parents — attended the ceremony, per the Los Angeles Times. Once the lovers were husband and wife, Kobe's relationship with his parents became increasingly acrimonious and he didn't speak to his dad for two years in the aftermath of the wedding. Moreover, Joe refused to meet his granddaughter, Natalia, only doing so when his son contacted him, insisting that he do so.

Vanessa Bryant's husband was accused of rape

As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the Bryants' marriage had long been dogged by allegations of infidelity. "She's been through a lot for someone her age," Vanessa's friend told the outlet in 2005. But her husband was also accused of non-consensual sex.

In 2003, Kobe Bryant was arrested after a 19-year-old hotel employee alleged that the NBA star violently assaulted her, per The Daily Beast. Kobe, who was accused of subjecting the woman to extreme brutality, acknowledged having sex with the accuser but denied rape. There was significant incriminating evidence in the case, including bruises and vaginal injuries, but Vanessa stood by her husband throughout the scandal, insisting that while Kobe had indeed cheated on her, he was not an abuser. "I know that my husband has made a mistake — the mistake of adultery," she said, per The Cut.

The case was dropped in 2004 as the accuser did not want to go to trial, per The Salt Lake Tribune. When the case was dismissed, Kobe stated, "Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did," per the Los Angeles Times. When Kobe died, many people brought up the rape allegation. For instance, Vanessa hit back at "Westworld" star Evan Rachel Wood for tweeting that her late husband was a rapist, with a furious Vanessa branding the remarks "vile and disturbing to say the least," per Complex.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Vanessa Bryant suffered a miscarriage

Vanessa and Kobe Bryant were devoted to their four daughters, but their efforts to conceive baby number two were beset by tragedy. In 2005, Vanessa suffered an ectopic pregnancy, which led to a miscarriage, per New York Daily News. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an egg grows outside of the womb, thereby potentially posing serious health risks to the expectant parent, according to a 2013 study.

Kobe blamed himself for the loss, explaining that he believed his rape case was causing Vanessa too much stress. Indeed, Vanessa was struggling with an undisclosed medical emergency shortly before her husband surrendered himself to the police in 2003, though this predates the miscarriage, per the New York Post. "We were expecting our second child during that time ... and there was just so much stress ... she actually miscarried," Kobe said in the documentary, "Muse" (via The Daily Beast). "It's something I have a real hard time dealing with that 'cause I felt like it was just my fault ... The reality is it happened because of me ... that's something I have to deal with. Something I gotta carry forever."

In 2006, the couple welcomed their rainbow baby, Gianna, an aspiring basketball star whose life was eventually cut tragically short. A year before Gianna's death, it was revealed that Vanessa, by then a mom of four, was hoping to have more children. "She wanted a boy so he can be mama's boy forever," Kobe told Extra in 2019. Sadly, her dream would never come true.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Vanessa Bryant was allegedly harassed by Karl Malone

In 2004, the Bryants were at the center of a major feud with retired basketball player Karl Malone, who allegedly creeped on Vanessa. When Vanessa met Malone, he apparently told her, "I'm hunting for little Mexican girls," per Los Angeles Times. Subsequently, she confided in Kobe that Malone sexually harassed her and had made a number of inappropriate remarks. Thereafter, Kobe allegedly threatened Malone, who denied making a move on Vanessa. "Kobe has told me that he feels very hurt and betrayed by what has happened," Kobe's agent, Rob Pelinka, told ESPN.

Kobe was highly protective of his wife following the accusations. "The comments that [Malone] said, I don't know any man in this room that wouldn't be upset about that ... She felt uncomfortable being around him to the point that she felt she had to call his wife and tell her," Kobe said at a press conference (via ESPN). With the feud ongoing for over a decade, by 2015 Malone said he was ready to fight Kobe, per The New York Post.

As noted in a separate Los Angeles Times article, the accusations marked a turning point in public perception of Kobe, who was soon deemed "a contradictory, at times polarizing public figure." Vanessa defended her outspokenness to The Cut, explaining, "Now I realize I do have to talk about certain things. Still, I don't like the limelight. There's a lot of good you can do with fame... but a lot of negativity comes along with it."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Vanessa Bryant was accused of abusing her housekeeper

As with many women in the public eye, Vanessa Bryant has been accused of exhibiting diva-esque behavior. It was during an ill-fated shopping trip that her cousin Laila sadly noted how different Vanessa had supposedly become, consumed by the trappings of fame and fortune. "She just kept buying and buying, and there I was carrying her packages," Laila told The Los Angeles Times. "She was being really rude to the salespeople — 'Get me this!' 'Do you know who I am?' ... I remember going home afterward and crying at how different she was." Bryant denied allegations that she mistreated sales staff, but this wouldn't be the last time she was accused of disregard for those in subordinate positions to herself.

In 2009, Bryant was sued by her housekeeper, Maria Jimenez, who accused her of verbal abuse and withholding money she owed. As reported by The Orange County Register, Jimenez claimed that Vanessa would scream at her on a regular basis, and deliberately humiliate and verbally abuse her. "The stress was too much," Jimenez said. "I could not take it anymore and quit." Jimenez claimed she was promised health insurance by the Bryants but they failed to provide it, so when she was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst she had to foot the exorbitant bill herself.

According to The New York Post, Bryant called the housekeeper "lazy, slow, dumb, a f***ing liar" and forced her to touch dog feces, which she denied. The case was settled in 2010.

Vanessa and Kobe Bryant had a difficult breakup

According to insiders, Vanessa Bryant began to feel her identity slowly slip away once she married her superstar beau. "I remember at one point she had this sort of identity crisis," her cousin told the Los Angeles Times. "She told me she was starting not to know who she was anymore, other than the wife of Kobe Bryant." Subsequently, the couple began to have marital issues.

In 2011, these problems came to the fore when the Bryants announced they were divorcing. As reported by CNN, Vanessa cited "irreconcilable differences" as grounds for divorce. The split was allegedly exacerbated by Kobe's numerous rumored infidelities, including claims that the NBA star was cheating with Playboy model Jessica Burciaga, per Bleacher Report. However, E! News later reported that the rumors were unsubstantiated. Additionally, he was linked to Carla DiBello, a pal of Kim Kardashian, though she denied being more than friends with the Lakers player, and actor Sanaa Lathan, per Daily News.

At the time of the split, TMZ revealed that Vanessa was at the end of her tether with Kobe after supposedly discovering that he'd cheated with multiple women. According to a separate TMZ report, she was told of the affairs by other basketball players' wives, who warned her to cut ties with her apparently adulterous hubby. Tellingly, Vanessa once condemned the normalization of cheating among basketball players. However, the divorce was called off, with Vanessa telling The Cut that they'd decided to work on their marriage.

Vanessa Bryant found out her husband died via social media

On January 26 2020, Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were flying in a helicopter on their way to the latter's basketball game, which her father was coaching, per ESPN. There were nine people on board, mostly parents and their teen daughters, when the helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. Everyone on board was killed.

As The New York Times reports, Vanessa Bryant found out there had been an accident, but was wrongly informed there were five survivors. She assumed that her loved ones were among those five. Then, she noticed that "RIP Kobe" was trending on social media. "I was holding onto my phone, because obviously I was trying to call my husband back, and all these notifications started popping up on my phone, saying, 'RIP Kobe,'" she revealed. This was before she had any indication whatsoever that her husband, let alone her daughter, was dead. Heading to the sheriff's department, she demanded to know what had happened, with officers being evasive until she was finally told the harrowing truth.

Becoming a widow was an enormous tragedy for Vanessa, but losing her adolescent daughter as well was too much to bear. "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 ... Why should I be able to wake up another day when my baby girl isn't being able to have that opportunity?" she wrote on Instagram (via The Daily Beast).

Vanessa Bryant was sued by her own mother

Grieving for her husband and daughter, Vanessa Bryant was struck with yet another blow when her own mom turned on her less than a year after Kobe and Gianna's deaths. At a time when she needed her mother the most, she was let down. As the BBC reports, Sofia Laine claimed that she was owed $5 million in child care costs for looking after her grandchildren. Calling herself Vanessa's "longtime personal assistant and nanny," Laine said that her late son-in-law promised she would always be financially taken care of for her domestic duties, something which her daughter had apparently failed to fulfill. 

Accordingly, Laine was slammed for targeting her daughter at her most vulnerable. Esteemed journalist Yashar Ali tweeted his support for Vanessa, arguing, "What Vanessa Bryant's mom is doing to her and her daughters in the worst year of their life is so repulsive."

In documents obtained by Us Weekly, Vanessa refuted claims that Laine's duties amounted to anything more than what was expected of a mother supporting her grieving daughter and grandchildren. "[She's] continuing to try and find ways to extort a financial windfall from our family," Vanessa stated. "She was a grandmother who was supported by me and her son-in-law at my request. She now wants to back-charge me $96 per hour for supposedly working 12 hours a day for 18 years for watching her grandchildren." In August 2021, the lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount, per ET.

Vanessa Bryant suffered further loss

In the wake of her tragic losses, Vanessa Bryant sought comfort through her dogs. When her kids had their first Father's Day without their dad, Bryant bought them a new puppy, Bobby, to provide some much needed solace and companionship, per Page Six. Meanwhile, her older dog, a Labrador named Crucio, offered his unconditional love during her darkest hours. On Instagram, she shared a poignant video of Crucio licking away her tears.

Not long after losing both her husband and daughter, Bryant endured further grief. Her beloved dog died in 2022. "We love you, Crucio. Thank you for everything sweet boy," she wrote on Instagram. "Thank you for watching over us. We're going to miss you." The post was accompanied by a carousel of the pup, including pics of him cuddling her daughters. Per People, numerous celeb pals offered their condolences following his death, including Lily Collins and Kris Jenner.

Vanessa's eldest daughter, Natalia, also penned a poignant tribute to her late furbaby on the social media platform, noting that he was "the most handsome, loving, selfless and brave dog" she had ever encountered. "I truly have no words except for the fact that Crucio was the best dog I could have ever asked for," she wrote. She shared a photo of the late Labrador laying down peacefully with medical tubes attached to his paw, suggesting that Crucio was put to sleep with his loving humans by his side.

Vanessa Bryant's greatest fear led to a lawsuit

Weeks after the deaths of Kobe and Gianna, Vanessa Bryant sued the helicopter companies for wrongful death, per USA Today. Although the suit was settled in 2021, her legal woes were sadly far from over.

In the aftermath of her dual loss, Vanessa's greatest fear was that graphic photos of Kobe and Gianna's remains would be leaked. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured her that the crash site was secured; however, it was reported that deputies took photos of the victims' remains and had allegedly begun sharing the images, which devastated Vanessa, per NBC Los Angeles. Her attorney called the dissemination of photos "an unspeakable violation of human decency."

Accordingly, Vanessa sued Los Angeles County, alleging lack of accountability. "I do not want my little girls or I to ever have to see their remains in that matter," she stated in her deposition, which was published by The New York Times. "Nor do I think it's right that the photographs were taken in the first place because it's already tough enough that I have to experience this heartache and this loss. But now to live the rest of my life having to fear those photographs surfacing is something that I have to deal with every single day." The county ordered Vanessa to undergo a psychiatric assessment to determine whether her emotional distress was caused by the images or by the tragedy itself. As of this writing, the trial is scheduled for mid August 2022, per the Los Angeles Times.