On Natalia Bryant's 18th birthday, Kobe Bryant's memory continues to be ever-present.
The late basketball legend's firstborn rang in her milestone birthday on Tuesday, Jan. 19 as her mom, Vanessa Bryant, commemorated the occasion on social media. Nearly a year after Kobe and daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant's untimely deaths, Vanessa expressed her gratitude to Natalia for helping the family through one of their most challenging chapters.
"Dear Natalia, Happy Birthday!" Vanessa wrote in an Instagram birthday message posted at midnight. "Mommy and Daddy are so proud of the young lady that you are. You have displayed so much strength and grace throughout the most difficult year of our lives. Thank you for stepping in to help me with your little sisters. You're such an incredible big sister and a beautiful role model to so many people."
Vanessa's moving tribute continued, "Thank you for being kind, polite and gracious in everything that you do. You have no idea how happy and proud mommy and daddy are that you're our daughter. We love you always and forever, forever and always. Happy 18th birthday to our first born, Natalia, our principessa!"
The mom of four signed off for the entire family with, "Love always, Mommy, Daddy, Gigi, BB and Koko." She and Kobe also shared daughters Bianka Bryant, 4, and 17-month-old Capri Bryant.
In addition to posting portraits of the 18-year-old birthday girl, Vanessa also shared throwback photos of Natalia as a baby with her dad on the basketball court. "Daddy's little princess, Natalia," Vanessa wrote for one of the shots. As she captioned a snap of the three of them together at the Staples Center, "We love you so much! Happy birthday Natalia!!!! Our first born @nataliabryant."
While it's a happy day for the family's eldest daughter, a solemn anniversary is ahead as Kobe, 41, and Gianna, 13, tragically died on Jan. 26, 2020. Vanessa recently spoke out about grief in a post on her Instagram Story.
"Let me be real," she shared on Jan. 15. "Grief is a messed up cluster of emotions. One day you're in the moment laughing and the next day you don't feel like being alive."
She continued, "I want to say this for people struggling with grief and heartbreaking loss. Find your reason to live. I know it's hard. I look at my daughters and I try to push through that feeling for them. Death is guaranteed but living the rest of the day isn't. Find your reason."