Los Angeles Lakers majority owner Jeanie Buss broke her silence Thursday on the tragic death of franchise icon Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash, mourning the hoopster as “family” in a heartfelt Instagram post.
“Kobe, I don’t know how to express what you mean to me, my family and the Los Angeles Lakers,” wrote Buss in a post, captioning a photo of a grinning Bryant, Buss and members of his family en route to the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto.
“My father [late Lakers owner Jerry Buss] loved you like a son, which makes us family,” continued Buss.
She went on to recall how Bryant, 41, and the second of his four daughters — 13-year-old Gianna, who also died in the Sunday crash in the hills of Southern California — supported her following her father’s passing in 2013.
“When you invited me to lunch shortly after my father passed away, I was struggling to find motivation and purpose,” she wrote. “Kobe, you brought Gianna with you to spend some time with me.
“You explained that you wanted to show her that women can be leaders in the NBA, just like the men,” wrote Buss. “At first, it seemed like an action of a devoted father setting an example for his daughter.
“But in actuality — and I am positively sure you knew EXACTLY what you were doing — what you did was give me the inspiration and strength I was searching for,” the executive continued.
“I reflect on that day often and it makes me smile and it makes me strong.”
She vowed to repay that kindness by helping to guide Bryant’s widow, Vanessa — who broke her own silence in a Wednesday post on the social-media site — and the couple’s three surviving daughters through their grief.
“Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri — I am so sorry for your loss,” wrote Buss. “We are grateful to have you in our lives and we will always be here for you.
“To the families that also lost loved ones on Sunday, the entire Laker family mourns with you,” she added, referring to the seven others killed in the crash in the hills of Calabasas.
“We will mourn together, cry together, but we will also heal together, love together and win TOGETHER. We love you,” Buss closed, including a link to the MambaOnThree Fund, established by Bryant’s Mamba Sports Foundation support the families of the other seven deceased.