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In light of the recent loss of NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, many have publically expressed their condolences to his wife, Vanessa. The two had more than a 20-year history together with plenty of ups, along with the downs. However, it’s what Kobe said about their marriage after a scandal that shows the kind of man he became off the court, maybe inspiring others going through tough times in their own relationships.

Kobe Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have a two-decade love story

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant
Kobe Bryant holds an Oscar beside his wife Vanessa Laine Bryant during the 90th Annual Academy Awards | ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

The love story between Kobe and Vanessa Bryant is one for the books, though that doesn’t mean it was easy. Their relationship began in 1999 while Vanessa remained in high school, but they engaged when she turned 18. Shortly after, in 2001, the couple wed.

Back then, neither likely thought they’d have the lives they did over the last [near] 20 years together. Kobe’s four children — including Gianna who died in the crash alongside her father — and NBA retirement after 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, became pieces of Kobe and Vanessa’s life together, but not the sum total. His family, as many have stated, were everything.

Their marriage had its share of tests, but they persevered

Without re-iterating too much of all that’s happened between Kobe and Vanessa, it’s worth noting all relationships have their challenges. Even celebrity fairytales aren’t perfect.

Kobe’s parents didn’t attend he and Vanessa’s wedding ceremony and remained estranged for years. Just as the couple settled into marital bliss, controversy rocked them to the core. Kobe was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman, which he denied, claiming the act consensual.

The case was ultimately dismissed. Vanessa stood by Kobe’s side through it all. During a press conference at the time, Kobe took responsibility for his actions and expressed his commitment to his wife and marriage and in the years since, he worked to prove himself.

“I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery,” he said via Entertainment Tonight. “I love my wife with all my heart. She’s my backbone.”

That is the only time Kobe would speak on the matter. Kobe and Vanessa went on to have four beautiful daughters while working through any struggles in their relationship. In 2011, Vanessa filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences.” It’s unclear what went on, and it’s their private business. By 2013, the divorce was called off.

“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.”

Shaquille O’Neal describes Kobe as a ‘family man’

The most fitting tribute to Kobe’s character as a person comes from longtime friend and colleague, Shaquille O’Neal.

“Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man,” O’Neal wrote on Instagram. “That was what we had most in common. We love our families. Whenever we got together I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his.”

He continued, “His baby girl Gianna was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah. I miss you already brother. This is truly unbelievable.  Everyone, please keep the Bryants in your prayers. R.I.P.”

Despite any dips in his marriage or massive NBA success, Kobe’s love for Vanessa and their children seems to be what many will remember most.

What did Bryant say about marriage after a high-profile scandal nearly broke them?

At the time of the scandal, Kobe commented on what it takes to repair a marriage after something so earth-shattering. During an episode of Showtime Basketball’s All the Smoke, Kobe opened up about the crucial components that helped repair his relationship with Vanessa after the 2001 incident.

“Commitment and [the] competitiveness of ‘We’re going to succeed,'” he said, adding they had to come together and work as a team when times got tough.

“That’s all the beauty of it: having the persistence and determination to work through things — very, very tough things — and we’ve been able to do that,” he said, emphasizing you cannot, under any circumstances, give up.

The two stayed together and made it work proving commitment and desire for change can work wonders. Kobe already inspired many for his incredible work ethic and dedication to his craft. However, there are likely just as many, if not more, inspired by Kobe’s dedication to putting his wife and children first.