Vanessa Bryant has paid tribute to her late husband, Kobe, on what would have been his 42nd birthday, saying she wishes she could “wake up from this horrible nightmare”.

On Sunday, the mother-of-four shared a throwback photo of herself and Kobe posing together dressed in formal wear with her 14 million Instagram followers.

In the caption of the post, Vanessa said she loved and missed her basketball star husband and daughter Gianna “more than I can ever explain”.

The father and daughter were killed in a helicopter crash in January, alongside seven others.

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“To my baby. Happy birthday. I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain. I wish you and Gigi were here to celebrate YOU!” Vanessa wrote.

“I wish I could make your fav food or a birthday cake with my Gigi. I miss your big hugs, your kisses, your smile, your loud a** deep laugh. [sic]”

The widow went on to describe how she often wanted to break down but managed to keep a positive attitude for her surviving children, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.

“God I miss you both so much. Our lives feel so empty without you and Gigi,” she wrote.

“I’ve been completely broken inside. As much as I want to cry, I put a smile on my face to make our daughters’ days shine a little brighter.”

She continued: “I’m not the strong one, they are. They’re strong and resilient. I’m sure you’re proud of them. They put a smile on my face everyday.”

Vanessa also said she wished she had died before her husband and daughter as she found it too painful to live without them.

“I wish I could wake up from this horrible nightmare. I’m mad I didn’t go first,” she said.

“I always wanted to go first so that I selfishly didn’t have to feel this heartache. You were supposed to miss me. Gigi was supposed to be here with her sisters. It should’ve been me.

Provided by The Independent Vanessa Bryant speaks at a celebration for the lives of her husband Kobe and daughter Gianna (AP)
“I know my Gigi is celebrating you like she always has on our special days. I miss my thoughtful princess so much.”

The couple’s eldest daughter, 17-year-old Natalia, also shared a tribute for her father on Instagram.

“Happy Birthday Dad,” she wrote alongside a photo of herself sitting on her father’s lap as a child.

“I miss your smile, laugh and big bear hugs. Happy Birthday to the best movie buddy I could have ever asked for. I will always remember our late night drives to the movie theatre with the windows rolled down and listening to our favourite songs. I love you forever and always. Always, Slim.”

In May, Vanessa also marked the birthday of Gianna, who would have turned 14.

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“Happy 14th Birthday to my sweet baby girl, Gianna,” she wrote on Instagram.

“Mummy loves you more than I can ever show you. You are part of MY SOUL forever.”

Previously, she also shared a letter from her husband, which she found unopened after his death.

Vanessa said she had waited until her birthday to open the letter, which had been addressed to “The Love of my Life”.