Vanessa Bryant and late husband Kobe Bryant. (Courtesy)

Vanessa Bryant has opened up about the first time she met Kobe Bryant in 1999. Vanessa - who earlier this year tragically lost Kobe and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash - recalled the "love at first sight" moment the pair experienced.

Vanessa and daughters Bianka, Capri and Natalia were forced to spend Thanksgiving without their beloved Kobe and Gianna this year. And the annual family centred celebration left her feeling heartbroken. She recalled meeting her late basketball icon husband 21 years ago to the date, as she took to Instagram to share a sweet snap of them together.

"Love at first sight 11/27/99 #21," she wrote, recalling the time she first laid eyes on Kobe aged 17.

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Vanessa went on to tie the knot with Kobe in 2001, with the pair welcoming four beautiful girls amid his iconic basketball career.

Vanessa Bryant and late husband Kobe Bryant. (Courtesy)

She previously said of their relationship: "I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidante and his protector. He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words."

But horror struck earlier this year, when Vanessa tragically became a widow. She suffered inconceivable heartache when Kobe and Gigi were killed in a helicopter crash on January 26. The mum-of-four has kept the memory of her loved ones alive with a number of touching messages on social media, and has since kept her husband's legacy alive.

The LA Lakers hero and daughter Gigi were two of nine people to be killed when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas.

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The others killed in the horror crash included 13-year-old Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, 46, 14-year-old Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, 46, John Altobelli, 56, Christina Mauser, 38, and 50-year-old pilot Ara Zobayan. The group were travelling near Calabasas, Los Angeles when the chopper crashed into a hillside during heavy fog.