It’s a permanent roster of his team, his home team. The names of his two daughters
—Natalia, 7, Gianna, 3—are tattooed on the forearm. The name of his wife, Vanessa, is inscribed below the bulging deltoid.
They met in 1999. He was a global superstar working on a rap album, never to be released, and she was a high school student dancing in a rap video. They were engaged quickly, over the strenuous objections of his parents, who didn’t attend the wedding in April 2001. Most reports said the Bryants thought Vanessa too young. Whatever the cause, there was an ugly split—which has apparently healed, because Bryant says he and his parents are tight: “I talked to my mom today.”
A staple at Staples Center, Vanessa has become one of the most visible women in the nation’s most visibility-conscious city, but she seldom speaks to reporters, and Bryant discusses her with clipped, protective answers. Though their marriage has been tested—by infidelity, by gossip—he says it’s strong. Asked to name his best friends, he names her first. “We’re close,” he says. “We’re like homeys.”