As the world grieves the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, a sweetly nostalgic moment from
his long-ago past is also being remembered.
Even as a high school student, Kobe was attracting a lot of attention for his mad basketball
He did, however, have one thing in common with just about every other high school kid
a celebrity crush on singer and actress Brandy Norwood.
Still just 18 years old, Bryant was invited to the 1996 Essence Awards, an event that
Norwood, who already had a platinum album under her belt, was also attending.
Best known as just "Brandy," the young superstar was also making a splash on TV as Moesha in
the hit UPN show of the same name.
Take him home."
Bryant was a high school basketball superstar at the time of the Essence Awards according
to ESPN, he was the all-time leading scorer in Southeastern Pennsylvania high school history.
A few months later, however, he would join the Los Angeles Lakers, fresh out of high
school only the sixth player in NBA history to skip college play and advance straight
to the pros.
Bryant said after being selected,
"I'm going out there to answer a challenge that I put to myself since the ninth grade.
I had said to myself that if I had the option to skip college and go straight to the NBA,
The option came my way, and I took advantage."
But before all of that, Kobe had a major crush to contend with.
Bryant's mother, Pam, later told the Philadelphia Inquirer,
"[Kobe] came home from the  Essence Awards and said, 'I met such a nice, beautiful,
intelligent, sweet person."
Bryant mustered up the courage to ask Brandy out on a date.
And not just any date.
He asked her to his prom.
"[W]hen [Brandy] called [with her answer], she said, 'My mom might let me go.'
I thought it was so sweet."
Norwood's mom must have agreed to the date, because the singer and the future NBA legend
indeed went to prom together, which meant a lot to the young rising star.
She told the press at the time,
"It's my first prom, my first date, my first everything.
[...] I feel like I'm missing out on a lot when it comes to teenage life."
And she told TMZ in 2014,
"It was so amazing, because I wasn't in regular school at the time, and Kobe was.
So if he never invited me to a prom, his prom, I never would have had the prom experience.
[...] It was hectic.
All the press and media were there, but it was just so much fun to be around kids my
age and dance."
A high school prom is a memorable event for many teens, and plenty keep treasures from
that night in order to remind them of the memories for years to come.
A high school prom for Brandy is no different.
After the star accompanied Bryant to his high school prom, she was sure to save some mementos
from the occasion.
TMZ asked the singer in 2014 if she still has the corsage that she wore that night.
She said her mom has the corsage, but that she didn't have her prom dress.
But she changed her tune two years later.
Norwood revealed to TMZ in 2016 that she did indeed keep the dress she wore to Bryant's
When asked if she's tried it on in the years since, however, she said no.
So what happened to Kobe and Brandy's relationship after the big night in 1996?
It's unclear, but we know it didn't last long.
"Very friendly relationship.
Brandy had dated and split from Wanya Morris, the lead singer of Boyz II Men and Brandy's
self-described "first love," by February 1998, and Kobe was engaged to his wife Vanessa in
May of 2000.
Brandy told MTV in 2004 that she was out of touch with the NBA star, saying,
"I haven't talked to Kobe in so long.
But I am so glad he took me to the prom.
I wouldn't have had a chance to go because I wasn't in regular high school."
We can guess, however, that Kobe's brief flirtation with Brandy likely lead to a major career
milestone: He appeared in a September 1996 episode of Moesha his acting debut.
"It's a lot easier when you come into work every morning and hang out with Brandy."