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Vanessa Bryant posts emotional tribute to Kobe and Gianna on Instagram

Vanessa Bryant breaks her silence

Vanessa Bryant posted an emotional tribute on Instagram to her late husband Kobe and late daughter Gianna, known as Gigi, on Wednesday, just days after the two were killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California. Earlier, she changed her Instagram profile photo to a sweet image of the pair.

"My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who've shown support and love during this horrific time," she wrote, alongside a family photo. "Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them."

Vanessa added that the family is "devastated" by Kobe and Gianna's death, as well as for the families of the seven other people who lost their lives in the crash on Sunday.

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My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. 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 Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. 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. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. 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. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️

A post shared by Vanessa Bryant 🦋 (@vanessabryant) on

"I'm not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it's impossible to imagine life without them," she continued. "But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that's to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever."

She also asked that her family be given "respect and privacy" as they navigate "this new reality."

Vanessa concluded the post by explaining that the Mamba Sports Foundation set up the MambaOnThree Fund, which will help support the other families "affected by this tragedy."

NBA All-Star Game 2016
Vanessa Bryant changed her Instagram profile photo to this sweet image of her late husband Kobe and late daughter Gianna on Wednesday. Getty

Vanessa also changed her Instagram profile photo to a photo of the father-daughter duo earlier on Wednesday. 

The photo shows Kobe and Gianna embracing while he was warming up during the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Ontario, Canada. The basketball legend's widow had previously not posted on social media since their unexpected deaths Sunday. Her Instagram account, which was previously private, was also made public Wednesday.

The Bryant family members and seven others were killed Sunday when a helicopter crashed into a hillside in dense fog in Calabasas, California. The helicopter was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.

The other victims included a highly-regarded baseball coach and three young athletes.

Gianna, known as Gigi, inherited her father's passion for basketball. They were on their way to a tournament for the youth league where Bryant coached Gigi's team when the helicopter went down. 

Bryant, known as a fierce competitor during his storied 20-year NBA career, told late night host Jimmy Kimmel in 2018 that Gigi, his second-oldest of four daughters, wanted to play in the WNBA. Gigi also had dreams of playing for the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team. 

Bryant's sudden death at age 41 touched off an outpouring of grief for a star whose celebrity transcended basketball. Bryant is survived by Vanessa and their three daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, who was born last June.

Chris Brito contributed to this report.

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