Natalia Bryant is opening up after her family tragedy. In an interview with Teen Vogue, the 18-year model shares the heartbreaking reason she decided not to play college volleyball, something that had long been her dream.
“I wanted to play volleyball in college. I played club volleyball with the intention of becoming a D1 athlete,” Natalia, a freshman at the University of Southern California, says. “I love the sport.”
Her decision to stop her pursuit of college volleyball came after her dad, Kobe Bryant, sister, Gianna Bryant, and seven others, died in a January 2020 helicopter crash on the way to a basketball tournament “I quit volleyball after the accident because… a lot was going on at that time. I knew I didn’t… love volleyball as much as they love basketball,” she says of her NBA legend dad and her sister, who was also on her way to being a basketball star. “I’m OK with that. I just wanted to take a break from it.” Though being a college athlete is no longer in the teen’s plans, Natalia never questioned whether she’d continue her education, due in large part to her mom, Vanessa Bryant.
“For my mom, it was really important for me to go through high school and get my education,” Natalia explains. “Especially complete college too.” While her mom influenced her decision to attend college, her dad was the one who helped her realize that she wanted to major in film. Watching movies, Natalia says, was one way she and her dad spent time together. In fact, on the car ride home after seeing Rise of the Skywalker in 2019, Natalia asked her dad to watch the whole franchise with her that night, a request to which he readily agreed.
“He was just like the best girl dad ever,” she praises. “He was just letting me play my playlist and jam out to Taylor Swift the whole ride back, and talk about Star Wars too. It was so much fun.” Looking back on memories like those with her dad is something Natalia does often. “I love talking about my dad,” she says. “It’s bittersweet, but I enjoy talking about him more than it’s sad for me.” It’s a philosophy shared by her mom, and something both women try to implement in their lives, due in large part to Natalia’s younger sisters, Bianka, 4, and Capri, 2.”You do the best that you can,” Natalia says of going through life without Kobe and Gianna. “[For] my little sisters [we’re] trying to keep that memory for them. And also just trying to remember to live out every day the way they would.”