Lakers owner Jeanie Buss remembers Kobe Bryant: We were 'family'

Buss shared how the late Lakers legend and his daughter Gianna helped her heal after the death of her own father, Jerry Buss.
/ Source: TODAY

Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is remembering Kobe Bryant as a member of her "family."

Buss shared a heartfelt Instagram post on Thursday to mourn the Lakers legend, who died Sunday in a tragic helicopter accident that also claimed the lives of his daughter Gianna and seven others.

"Kobe, I don’t know how to express what you mean to me, my family and the Los Angeles Lakers. My father (late Lakers owner Jerry Buss) loved you like a son, which makes us family," Buss, 58, wrote next to a photo of her, Bryant and his family on their way to the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bryant played for the Lakers for 20 seasons before retiring in 2016, three years after the death of Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

In her emotional post, Jeanie Buss shared how Bryant and Gianna, whom the family nicknamed Gigi, helped her heal after her father died.

"When you invited me to lunch shortly after my father passed away, I was struggling to find motivation and purpose. Kobe, you brought Gianna with you to spend some time with me. You explained that you wanted to show her that women can be leaders in the NBA, just like the men," she shared.

Buss joined Bryant at his hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in February 2011. The Los Angeles Lakers owner is mourning Bryant as a member of her "family."David Livingston / Getty Images

"At first, it seemed like an action of a devoted father setting an example for his daughter. But in actuality — and I am positively sure you knew EXACTLY what you were doing — what you did was give me the inspiration and strength I was searching for," she continued.

"For everything you did on the court that filled me with so much joy and love, for all the lives you changed through basketball itself, it was that day with Gigi that reignited my drive and determination," she wrote.

Buss expressed sympathy to Bryant's widow, Vanessa, and his three other daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri, telling them, "We will always be here for you."

She also told the survivors of the crash's other victims "the entire Laker family mourns with you."

Lakers fans are grieving Bryant's death together, said Buss. "We will mourn together, cry together but we will also heal together, love together and win TOGETHER," she wrote.

She concluded her post by thanking Bryant for how he lived his life. "You not only inspired us towards greatness, you showed us the way," she wrote.

Buss' post comes two days after Bryant's former Lakers teammate Shaquille O'Neal broke down in tears during a TNT tribute to the late athlete at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"I didn't want to believe it. And then ... everybody called me, and we found out it was confirmed," O'Neal told his co-hosts. "I haven't felt pain that sharp in a while."

O’Neal, 47, and Bryant played together from 1996-2004 and won three consecutive championships together, from 2000-2002.

"Our names will be attached together for what we did," O'Neal said.