No marriage is ever going to be perfect, not even for an NBA superstar and his wife. There will be ups and downs as couples will have to navigate sometimes very murky waters and overall, hard times. But the ones that can get through the rough patches prove that marriage can work. For Kobe Bryant, who recently died in a tragic helicopter accident on Sunday, he proved with his wife, Vanessa, that despite scandals and other estrangements, marriage can work, not only for love but for family.
It’s worth taking a step back to provide a background on Kobe and Vanessa’s two-decade-long marriage that began quite a while ago. Their romantic relationship began in 1999 while Vanessa was still in high school. At the time, Kobe was making his way into the NBA. Shortly after, though, when Vanessa turned 18, the two got engaged, only to be married a year later in 2001.
Little did each of them know that their marriage would last for so long and be tested from the beginning.
From the onset, it appeared that Kobe and Vanessa’s marriage would become battle-tested, starting with the ceremony, itself. It was a magical moment for the two, except for one glaring issue: Kobe’s parents were not in attendance as they protested the union altogether, even remaining estranged for years that followed. The couple carried on with the ceremony and began to settle into their married lives. However, another issue would come to rock the boat and test the true strength of their marriage only a short time later.
Only a few years after they said their vows, Bryant was accused of sexual assault on a 19-year-old woman, a claim that the basketball star denied, citing that the incident was consensual between the two. Ultimately, the charges were dropped. However, the damage was still done. Kobe had been unfaithful to his wife, regardless of the context. Vanessa stayed by his side, though. She believed in the bigger picture of their lives together. After the scandal, Kobe released a statement taking responsibility for what he had done and reaffirming his commitment to his wife. “I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery,” he said. “I love my wife with all my heart. She’s my backbone.”
The couple would go on to have four beautiful children, but in 2011, Vanessa decided that she wanted to file for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. It’s unclear what the exact reasons for the differences, as they were never made, public. In 2013, though, it was announced that the divorce had been called off. Vanessa took to Instagram, writing, “We are pleased to announce that we have reconciled,” Vanessa wrote on Instagram at the time. “Our divorce action will be dismissed. We are looking forward to our future together.”
In a world where couples give up all too easily when times get hard, both Kobe and Vanessa showed the world how marriage can take work. Unfortunately, her husband and daughter are no longer with us, but she does have the twenty years together to show how strong their love and perseverance was, despite bumps in the road. Something no one will ever be able to take away from her.