A young basketball fan has revealed he took a selfie with Kobe Bryant just hours before the NBA legend’s death which could be the last photo ever taken of him.
Brady Smigiel, 13, snapped a picture of Bryant walking behind him at the Mamba Sports Academy on Saturday, where the former Lakers star was coaching his daughter Gianna’s team.
Bryant told the youngster he would pose for a better picture the next day, but was never able to keep his promise after his helicopter crashed and burst into flames near Los Angeles on Sunday.
Smigiel, who was playing in a tournament at Bryant’s academy, had also watched 13-year-old Gianna Bryant play for her junior team hours before she too was killed in the crash.
Brady’s mother Dionne Reich Smigiel told CNN that the family was ‘struggling’ after the helicopter tragedy and said her children ‘don’t know how to process this’.
With tributes continuing to pour in for Bryant, his wife Vanessa yesterday spoke out for the first time since his death and said the family was ‘completely devastated by the sudden loss’.
Last photo? Brady Smigiel snapped this picture of Kobe Bryant walking behind him at the Mamba Sports Academy on Saturday, hours before the NBA legend died in a California helicopter crash
Vanessa Bryant shared a photo of the Los Angeles Lakers legend’s family on Wednesday while offering her first remarks about Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s death
‘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 Capril,’ Vanessa said in the Wednesday post
Dionne Reich Smigiel said her twin sons were ‘obsessed with basketball and big fans of Kobe’ who would ask his mother to drive by Bryant’s home in case they saw him.
Describing the circumstances of the selfie, she said Kobe had initially been ‘mad’ after his daughter’s team had lost and given Brady ‘knuckles’ rather than posing for a picture.
The teenager tried again after another match had finished, and this time managed to snap a picture of the NBA legend walking behind him.
Bryant told him ‘We’ll get a better pic tomorrow’, but died on the way to Sunday’s tournament along with eight others on the helicopter.
His wife Vanessa yesterday stressed that the family was devastated for the families of all nine victims, saying that Bryant’s family ‘share in their grief intimately’.
‘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 Capril,’ Vanessa said in the Wednesday post.
She continued: ‘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.’
Vanessa asserted that the family would continue to try and ‘keep pushing,’ adding that Kobe and Gigi are ‘shining on us to light the way,’
‘Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable,’ she said. ‘I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever.’
‘Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality.’
Vanessa shared that the Mamba Sports Foundation would be setting up a MambaOnThree Fund to help support the families of those lost in the tragedy.
The Los Angeles Lakers also took to Twitter to share information about the foundation and to share a picture of the couple
‘We are devastated and have been forever changed by the sudden loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,’ the team said on Wednesday. ‘We send our love to Vanessa, the Bryant family, and to the families of the other passengers’
‘Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me,’ Vanessa concluded in the post.
The Los Angeles Lakers also took to Twitter to share information about the foundation.
‘We are devastated and have been forever changed by the sudden loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,’ the team said on Wednesday. ‘We send our love to Vanessa, the Bryant family, and to the families of the other passengers.’
‘Words cannot express what Kobe means to the Los Angeles Lakers, our fans, and our city. More than a basketball player, he was a beloved father, husband, and teammate. Their love and light will remain in our hearts forever.’
The Lakers’ post comes just hours after Vanessa publicly acknowledged their shock deaths when she changed her Instagram profile photo to one of Kobe and Gianna embracing and smiling at each other.
The photo was taken during an NBA all-star game in Toronto in 2016, which was among his last all-star appearances.
Kobe Bryant’s wife changed her Instagram profile picture on Wednesday to feature her late husband and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna
Vanessa publicly acknowledged their shock deaths on Wednesday when she changed her Instagram profile photo to one of Kobe and Gianna embracing and smiling at each other
Vanessa also switched her Instagram account from private to public on Wednesday.
It is not clear if she made the account, which has more than one million, followers, private before or after the crash.
Sources have said Vanessa has been trying to stay strong for their three surviving daughters but is devastated, numb and can barely keep it together.
‘She can’t finish a sentence without crying. But she is working very hard to pull it together for the other girls. She now has to be the strong one,’ the source told People.
Bryant met Vanessa back in 1999 when she was 17 and was working as a background model on a music video.
They got engaged six months later and married in 2001.
The couple have four children together: Gianna, 13, who was killed alongside her father, Natalia, 17, three-year-old Bianka and seven-month-old Capri.
Kobe would often share heartwarming photos and tributes to his family on social media.
The Bryant family were all pictured together in December at a Nutcracker performance for an annual Christmas tradition
Gigi and her mother Vanessa are pictured above together during a recent family trip to Disneyland late last year (left) and in Greece in 2014 (right)
Vanessa and Kobe, who married in 2001, are pictured above with their three eldest daughters: Natalia, 17, Gianna, 13, and three-year-old Bianka
Bryant met Vanessa back in 1999 when she was 17 and was working as a background model on a music video. They got engaged six months later and married in 2001
In November 2019, he called Vanessa his ‘Queen’ and their daughters ‘princesses’ in a touching post to mark 20 years since they first met when she was at high school.
‘On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4princesses),’ he wrote.
‘I love you my mamacita per sempre,’ Bryant captioned a throwback photo of the couple along with a photo of them at the time in the Anaheim, California, theme park.
Kobe, Gianna and seven others were killed on Sunday when their helicopter went down in a fiery crash in Southern California on their way to the 13-year-old’s basketball game.
They were killed alongside John Altobelli, 56, longtime head coach of Southern California’s Orange Coast College baseball team; his wife, Keri; and daughter, Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Bryant’s daughter; and Christina Mauser, a girls’ basketball coach at a Southern California elementary school.
The NBA legend and Vanessa married in April 2001 when he was 22 and she was 18. Together they have four children: Gianna (far right), 13, who was killed alongside her father, Natalia (left), 17, three-year-old Bianka (right, in pink), and seven-month-old Capri
Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna (pictured in November 2019) were both killed in the crash
Another young player, Payton Chester, was also killed in the crash along with her mother Sarah Chester.
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50, was the ninth victim. He was the chief pilot for the aircraft’s owner, Island Express Helicopters.
The company said the pilot had more than 10 years of experience and had logged more than 8,000 flight hours.
He also was a flight instructor who had flown Bryant and other celebrities several times before.
Investigators and experts have since said the helicopter didn’t have a long-recommended warning system to alert the pilot he was too close to the ground.
It is not clear whether that system would have averted the foggy-weather crash.
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, had been climbing out of the clouds when the chartered aircraft banked left and began a sudden and terrifying 1,200-foot descent that lasted nearly a minute
The last of the victims’ bodies were recovered on Tuesday and coroner’s officials said the remains of Bryant, Zobayan and two other passengers were identified using fingerprints.
This image shows part of the wreckage of the helicopter crash near Calabasas, California
Dramatic pictures have revealed how Kobe Bryant’s helicopter exploded into a fireball after it plunged 1,000 feet into a hillside on Sunday, killing the NBA legend and eight others