‘Her smile was like sunshine’: Vanessa Bryant remembers her ‘thoughtful’ daughter Gianna

Vanessa Bryant tearfully spoke about the warm and caring demeanor of her daughter Gianna Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash along with her father and seven other people in January.

Vanessa talked about Gianna, who went by Gigi, during a memorial service for the Bryants and other victims at Staples Center on Monday.

“She was daddy’s girl, but I know she loved her mama. She would always tell me and show me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends,” Vanessa said.

Gianna and Vanessa

Vanessa Bryant is shown during a memorial for her daughter Gianna and husband Kobe at Staples Center alongside a file image of Gianna playing basketball. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

The 13-year-old athlete loved to bake, watch Disney movies with her siblings and made sure to give her mother kisses in the morning and evening every day.

“Gigi was very competitive like her daddy – but Gianna had a sweet grace about her. Her smile was like sunshine,” Vanessa said.

Vanessa said her daughter shared some of her personality traits – a fiery passion and sarcasm – but she also shared a penchant for memorizing song lyrics after a few listens like her father and his love for basketball.

“Gigi was confident – but not in an arrogant way,” her mother said. “She was very much like her daddy in that they both liked helping people learn new things and master them.”

RELATED: Kobe and Gianna Bryant shared love of basketball and skills on the court

Gigi – who dreamed of playing in the WNBA – also spent time writing essays and educating people on the need for equality in women’s sports.

“Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA – she would have made a huge difference,” Vanessa said. “She was motivated to change the way people viewed women’s sports. I truly feel she made positive changes for the WNBA players now.”

In addition to Gianna’s tenacity for sports – which included swimming and dancing – she could speak multiple languages. Vanessa said her daughter could “read, speak and write in Mandarin” and knew Spanish.

“She was looking forward to graduating eighth grade and going to high school with her big sister, Natalia,” Vanessa said.

RELATED: Athletes reflect on Kobe Bryant’s push for equality and opportunity in women’s sports

She added that her daughter loved her family and had a maternal nature about her since she was a toddler.

Vanessa, who took a few moments during her speech to take a deep breath, said she was saddened to know she would never get to tell Gigi “how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day” nor would she be able to see her walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance or become a mother.

“I cannot imagine life without her,” Vanessa said. “I miss you – all of you. Every day. I love you.”