Gianna Bryant was only 13, but she was already proudly carrying her family’s basketball legacy.
Gianna and her father, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, died Sunday when a helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California. All nine people on board, including the pilot, died in the crash, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said. They were reportedly en route to a travel game.
Kobe spoke about Gianna’s passion for basketball during an interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in December 2018. When people told him he and his wife needed to have a son so someone could carry on his legacy, Gianna would step in and say “Oh, I got this.”
Kobe on Gianna: “The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans come up to me, and she'll be standing next to me ..
They’ll be like “you gotta have a boy, have soembody carry on the legacy... she’s like, “oh, I got this!”pic.twitter.com/rsIgOXbNlI
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 26, 2020
Four days ago, CNN published an interview with the five-time NBA champion in which he said Gianna was “hellbent” on playing at UConn.
Bryant coached Gianna on her middle school basketball team for at least the past year. That teaching element has long been part of their father-daughter relationship.
"Gianna's pretty easy to coach," he told Entertainment Tonight in December 2018. "We haven't had any issues of dad-daughter sort of thing. She's very competitive and she's a hard worker, so there haven't been any issues with that."
A week ago, Bryant shared an Instagram post on Gianna’s improvement. She was a constant on his social media feeds and went viral with her father-esque moves over the years. He dubbed her “Mambacita” after his own nickname, the Black Mamba.
Bryant credited his second of four daughters with getting him to watch more NBA in retirement. He left the game in 2016 after 20 years with the Lakers, and his Nos. 8 and 24 jerseys were retired at Staples Center in 2017.
“We just had so much fun because it was the first time I was seeing the game through her eyes,” Kobe said of the experience with his daughter while on the Showtime Basketball podcast All the Smoke earlier this month.
“It wasn’t me sitting there, you know, as an athlete or a player or something like that, and you know it’s like about me, and I don’t like that,” he added. “It was her, she was having such a good time.”
Gianna named Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young as one of her favorite players as well as Luka Doncic, Russell Westbrook and, of course, LeBron James, Bryant told CNN.
...This S*** can’t be real... this the first moment I was able to meet Gianna Maria, she’s been to only 3 games this year... 2 of them were mine... She told me I was her favorite player to watch🙏🏽 I can’t believe this😢😭
Rest Easy Gigi❤️ pic.twitter.com/IfDrE9Gjlv
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) January 26, 2020
He believed his daughter would make it to the WNBA, he said recently, and supported the league for years. He and Gianna visited the Oregon Ducks and star guard Sabrina Ionescu in recent months. An emotional Ionescu, who was close with the family, and her fourth-ranked Ducks defeated No. 7 Oregon State on Sunday in a broadcast that showed multiple photos of Gianna with the star.
Bryant’s first two daughters were old enough to watch their father play and attend games at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Times shared a photo of Gianna at a game in 2016.
From the archives: Kobe Bryant kisses his daughter Gianna at center court after a Lakers game against the Clippers at the Staples Center in 2016. pic.twitter.com/XY9YjNHMMf
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 26, 2020
Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa. They are also parents to oldest daughter Natalia, who turned 17 on Jan. 19, 3-year-old Bianka and seven-month-old Capri.
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