By Maria Pasquini | People |
Kobe Bryant used helicopters to get around Los Angeles, but he and his wife Vanessa Bryant made a point not to fly together.
“He and Vanessa had a deal that they would never fly on a helicopter together,” a source tells PEOPLE of the couple, who tied the knot in 2001.
Bryant, who was killed alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people in Sunday’s crash, is survived by Vanessa, 37, and their daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, who was born in June 2019.
The former NBA player, 41, and his daughter were on their way to a youth basketball game at the time of the crash, according to ESPN.
The same source also told PEOPLE that Bryant “only” flew in helicopters with pilot Ara Zobayan, who was among those killed in the crash.
Bryant previously shared that he began using helicopters while he still played for the Los Angeles Lakers as a way to spend more time with his family — and less time stuck in traffic.
“I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing like a school play,” he told Alex Rodriguez in 2018. “I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time.”
“So that’s when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes and that’s when it started,” he added.
In an interview published in November for Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, Bryant also shared that out of all of his numerous accomplishments, being a father took the cake.
“Being a father is the thing I am most proud of in this world; it’s my greatest accomplishment,” he said. “I’ve learned so much, but perhaps the most profound thing has been the fierce, unconditional love you have for your children when you become a parent. I’m blessed to have had that experience four times now and there’s nothing more powerful in this world.”
“One of the biggest things he was looking forward to after retiring from the NBA [in 2016] was getting to spend more time with his family,” a friend close to the family told PEOPLE. “He was a very hands-on dad and, like any other father, saw such bright futures for all of his daughters.”
The source added: “He was so proud to see them take after not only him and Vanessa, but also grow into their own. He had a special bond with each of his daughters.”
While memorializing his friend in an emotional tribute written for the Players’ Tribune on Sunday, Derek Jeter noted that Bryant always preferred to talk about his family over his career.
“All I ever needed to know about Kobe Bryant was this: that throughout our friendship, the most meaningful conversations we had — they were always about family,” the retired baseball star, 45, wrote.
“Here was this guy who was beyond gifted as an athlete, who was obsessed with being a champion, who was known as an absolute assassin with a ball in his hands,” he continued. “And in the moments I got to spend with him? He didn’t really talk about any of that. He cared much more about being a husband to Vanessa and a dad to his girls. He loved his family — he was his family. That’s what was important. And that’s the Kobe I’ll remember.”