It’s a bittersweet day in the world of love stories. Because April 18, is Kobe and Vanessa Bryant’s wedding anniversary — a day they would have celebrated 19 years of saying “I do” to each other. “I do” to adventures. “I do” to standing by each other’s sides. “I do” to raising four beautiful daughters together. Today would have been 19 years of marriage for a couple who never stopped saying “I do” during Kobe’s lifetime.
In the summer of 1999, Vanessa was a teenager attending Marina High School in Huntington Beach when she was reportedly recruited to appear in videos for Snoop Dogg’s hip-hop trio Tha Eastsidaz. Also an adjacent player in the music industry at that time? Kobe, who was working on launching his own musical career. And while he didn’t succeed on that front, you could say he got the best outcome he could have hoped for — he met his future wife.
Kobe was in his early 20s at the time, already a young star in the NBA. So, when he began sending roses to Vanessa at her high school, people were skeptical. “She’d bring pictures of Kobe to school and we’d be like ‘Ohmygod,'” Monica Squadrilli, one of Vanessa’s classmates, told The Los Angeles Times in 2005. “Even then, a lot of people didn’t believe her. But this was the real deal. On Vanessa’s 18th birthday, she and Kobe announced that they were getting married. And on April 18, 2001, they said, “I do.”
Although Kobe’s light has tragically gone dark, it doesn’t mean his love story with Vanessa shines any less. Was their life together perfect? No. Nothing ever is. But for nearly 19 years as husband and wife, the couple continued to show up for each other. So, in celebration of their perfectly imperfect love story, here are some of their sweetest throwback moments from nearly two decades of marriage.
Can we take a minute to appreciate how precious these two were when they first met? As Kobe explained on Instagram, their first date was to Disneyland. So cute!
A Winning Pair
It’s wild to think back to those early years when Kobe first became an NBA icon. Even back then, though, Vanessa was by his side, cheering him on.
In this undated photo shared by Vanessa, the couple looks fresh-faced and totally smitten with each other.
A Sparkly Night Out
These two cleaned up nice! They spiffed up for her 25th birthday celebration, which included sequined shorts for her ensemble.
The Real MVP
After Kobe racked up yet another championship trophy, he and Vanessa took a seat where fans always knew they belonged: on a throne.
Sometimes just being silly together is the glue that binds a relationship. And it seems like Vanessa and Kobe embraced being silly with each other.
13 Years In
“I’m married to the love of my life and my best friend. We’ve grown up together these 14 plus years together and we’ve experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. Marriage isn’t perfect, but anything is possible through God and Love,” Vanessa wrote on their 13th anniversary, nodding to their favorite love movie. “You are my Noah and I will always be your Allie.”
Kobe was a hands-on dad, and that always meant doting on Vanessa during her pregnancies.
The City of Love
Like any other couple would during a trip to Paris, Vanessa and Kobe stopped to pose in front of the Eiffel Tower. What a romantic memory to have!
16 Years In
By their 16th wedding anniversary, these two seemed invincible. Kobe posted a short and simple but sincere tribute to his wife, writing, “Happy anniversary Mamacita! Ti amo con Tutto il mio core.”
During a family vacation to Bora Bora, Kobe and Vanessa stole a few minutes for some QT together.
When Kobe took home an Oscar for best animated short film (for Dear Basketball), Vanessa couldn’t have looked more proud of her hardworking husband.
Taylor Swift Chaperones
Hey, parents have to squeeze in couple time wherever they can! For Kobe and Vanessa, that included a Taylor Swift concert they’d taken daughter Gianna to attend.
Heating Things Up Down South
Kobe’s 40th birthday celebration in Cabo, Mexico, seemed to be a pretty sexy success if these photos are any indication.
Those Disney Dates, Though
Since their first date took place at Disney, the venue always had a special place in the couple’s heart.
The Birthday Boy
He may have been older than her and considerably taller than her, but Kobe was clearly Vanessa’s “baby.”
The Couple Who Cosplays Together
When these two did Halloween, they did it all the way. The fact that they coordinated just makes them that much sweeter.
18 Years In
Last year, on the last anniversary they would spend together, Kobe shared a heartwarming photo of the pair. “Happy 18th wedding anniversary baby! Ti Amo per Sempre,” he wrote.
It’s not clear what year of marriage this photo of Vanessa and Kobe was taken. What is clear, though, is how much they loved one another. “My king, my heart, my best friend. Happy 19th wedding anniversary baby. I miss you so much. I wish you were here to hold me in your arms,” Vanessa captioned the throwback on what would have been the couple’s special day this year. “I love you.”
Before you go, see other Hollywood love stories that have stood the test of time.