Lakers GM recalls day Kobe Bryant died in emotional testimony

Lakers GM recalls day Kobe Bryant died in emotional testimony

Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka broke down crying during emotional testimony on Wednesday as he recounted the day he lost both his best friend, Kobe Bryant, and his goddaughter, Gianna Bryant, when their helicopter crashed in 2020.

Pelinka, who was also Kobe Bryant’s former agent, said he was attending Sunday mass with his wife when he got the phone call that the 41-year-old NBA legend was involved in a helicopter accident.

“My first instinct … I told my wife that we have to get to Vanessa,” Pelinka said in court, referring to Kobe Bryant’s wife.

“I wanted to be with her, hug her, tell her we love her and do whatever we could,” Pelinka said through tears. 

When he met up with Vanessa Bryant, Pelinka said she was inconsolable.

“Please get me to my babies!,” he recalled her saying.

Pelinka took the stand Wednesday during the first day of Vanessa Bryant’s federal invasion-of-privacy-suit against Los Angeles County, which claims that Los Angeles County deputies and fire personnel shared photos of the NBA Hall-of-Famer their 13-year-old daughter’s mangled bodies at the crash scene in Calabasas.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka was one of Kobe Bryant’s best friends and godfather to his late daughter Gianna.

Pelinka said he drove Vanessa Bryant and Natalia Bryant, Gianna’s older sister, an hour and a half to the Las Virgenes sheriff’s department near the crash site in Calabasas. 

Once there, they were ushered into a room with a chaplain who delivered the devastating news.

Multiple deputies came into the room and told him and Vanessa Bryant that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva knew about Vanessa’s request to protect the crash site area, Pelinka said.

The Lakers GM said they were told, “You can be assured Sheriff Villanueva wants to honor Vanessa’s request.”

“As you can imagine, she (Vanessa) was in no position to talk,” Pelinka said.

When asked by Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, what the widow has done to heal, Pelinka paused to catch his breath for a few seconds before he began to cry.

In June 2020, he said, Vanessa Bryant called him one day and asked him if he could accompany her to the crash site.

“She said it’s a part of her journey of grief and healing,” Pelinka said, wiping tears from his face. “She wanted to touch the soil where they were … and where they went to heaven.”

Pelinka said they got all-terrain vehicles and drove to the site, which is up a path by brush and hills.

“We just talked, prayed … there were flowers blooming,” he said. “We just knew that they were with us.”

Pelinka added that Vanessa Bryant continues to struggle with the grief and anxiety over the possibility that the pictures taken at the site could potentially be leaked to the public and viewed by her three surviving daughters.

“She has been distressed, horrified, angry,” Pelinka said of Vanessa Bryant, who he often referred to as his sister. “The very people who protect us are the very ones who did this. How could this be?”

Pelinka will continue his testimony tomorrow.

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