Today (Aug. 23) marks what would have been Kobe Bryant‘s 45th birthday.
Vanessa, 41, wished the late basketball legend a happy birthday in a sweet post with old photos from their years together.
“Happy birthday, baby. I love you always & forever. #82378,” she wrote on Instagram, with the hashtag referencing his birthdate.
Kobe and Vanessa were married for two decades after first meeting on the set of a music video in 1999 when Kobe was 20 and Vanessa was 17. They married on April 18, 2001, in Dana Point, California before welcoming daughters Natalia in 2003 and Gianna in 2006.
Following Kobe’s retirement from the NBA after 20 seasons, which he announced via a poem on The Players’ Tribune on Nov. 29, 2015, he and Vanessa welcomed two more daughters, Bianka in 2016 and Capri in 2019.
In January 2020, Kobe died in a tragic helicopter crash, alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six parents and teammates on her basketball team, along with the pilot.
Also on Wednesday, Vanessa released the new Kobe Bryant 8 Protro sneaker she designed.
“The Halo concept will be an annual release that will honor and celebrate this special date,” Nike wrote on their website.
A black-and-white teaser clip of the sneaker was also showcased on Vanessa’s Instagram. “Kobe 8 ‘Halo’ 8.23.23 This will be one of many Kobe 8 ‘Halo’ styles coming soon, “ she wrote in the caption.
In March 2021, Vanessa told PEOPLE that her daughters help her “smile through the pain” and give her strength amid heartbreak and grief.
“This pain is unimaginable [but] you just have to get up and push forward. Lying in bed crying isn’t going to change the fact that my family will never be the same again. But getting out of bed and pushing forward is going to make the day better for my girls and for me. So that’s what I do,” she said.
Speaking about “finding the light in darkness,” Vanessa also shared how her late daughter and husband’s legacies live on. “The best way to describe it is that Kobe and Gigi motivate me to keep going. They inspire me to try harder and be better every day. Their love is unconditional and they motivate me in so many different ways,” she said.