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Natalia Bryant Opens Up About Leaving Sports Behind After Losing Father Kobe

The IMG model and eldest daughter of the basketball icon is Teen Vogue's September cover star.
Natalia Bryant Opens Up About Leaving Sports Behind After Losing Father Kobe
Raven B. Varona

Transitioning from high school to college can be an emotionally tumultuous time for any young woman. Pair that with being the high profile child of a sports icon, and suffering the recent loss of not one, but two beloved members of immediate family, and you have a mix of pressure and grief that could grind any teen’s life to a halt.

But Natalia Bryant is standing strong. The eldest daughter of the late Kobe Bryant sat with Teen Vogue for their September 2021 issue as she was just on the cusp of entering her freshman year at the University of Southern California. In the article, she opened up about pursuing her collegiate goals and seeking to make her family proud after tragically losing her father and younger sister.

“I love talking about my dad,” Bryant tells Teen Vogue. “It’s bittersweet, but I enjoy talking about him more than it’s sad for me.”

Natalia Bryant Opens Up About Leaving Sports Behind After Losing Father Kobe

Much like her father, Bryant became dedicated to sports at a young age. She admits that she was never keen on basketball — too much running for her taste. Pushed by her mother and encouraged by her father, each of whom often accompanied her to USC volleyball games as a spectator alongside her late sister Gianna, she grew an affinity for volleyball and even placed the sport and her eventual college of choice into her goal horizon.

“I wanted to play volleyball in college,” she shared. “I played club volleyball with the intention of becoming a D1 athlete.” Bryant, whose parents each never attended college, always had plans (pressed by her parents) to crush it on the courts and in the classroom.

However, she says part of those plans came to an abrupt stop when she lost her father and sister in a tragic helicopter accident on their way to a basketball torunament. Though she says she still loves the sport, a desire for a clear mind led her to leave it aside — for now, at least.

“I quit volleyball after the accident because I was so…a lot was going on at that time. I knew I didn’t…love volleyball as much as they love basketball. I’m okay with that.”

Thankfully, Bryant holds on to her fond memories of the loved ones she’s lost. She shares that one of her favorite moments with Kobe was attending the November 2019 match between USC and Oregon.

“That was an especially cool moment that I got to experience with him, and sit courtside, and watch two of the top teams. They were going at it. I was in awe watching them.”

Perhaps, down the line, if her passions lead her back to her love of sports, Natalia will hit the court once again.

“I’ve always been very competitive,” she told the magazine. “I think it’s the way my parents raised me — to be competitive.”