- NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, Sunday.
- Gigi, dubbed “Mambacita,” shared her father’s love for the game and intended to one day follow in his footsteps by playing professional basketball in the WNBA.
- According to the Black Mamba himself, Gigi was “hellbent” on playing college ball for Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies.
- Prior to their highly-anticipated Monday-night matchup against the US Women’s National Team, the Huskies honoured the young Bryant with a No. 2 jersey and floral arrangement perched on the UConn bench.
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NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, died in a helicopter crash along with seven others in Calabasas, California, Sunday.
Dubbed “Mambacita” after her father’s nickname “Black Mamba,” Gigi spent much of her childhood watching her father dominate the NBA and aspired to follow in his footsteps. She wanted to play in the WNBA someday, but she was “hellbent” on playing college ball for Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies first, according to her dad.
Just one day after the Bryants’ fatal accident, the Huskies hosted the US Women’s National Team for a scrimmage as part of its pre-Olympics tour. And prior to tipoff, UConn honoured Gigi with by draping a No. 2 jersey – the number she wore with her AAU team – over the back of its bench and placing a bouquet of flowers on the seat.
Mambacita is forever a Husky ???? pic.twitter.com/3wdAbdK0Ye
— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) January 27, 2020
It was an emotional night for many of the players and staff on hand. Kobe was an outspoken supporter of the women’s game and the WNBA and had a personal relationship with many of the stars who laced up for Team USA.
Diana Taurasi – the all-time WNBA leading scorer whom Bryant regularly called the greatest of all time and dubbed the “White Mamba” – broke down in front of the camera’s while trying to reflect on the Black Mamba’s legacy.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” Taurasi began while holding back tears. “He meant so much to a city. That fighting spirit that he had, I think everyone had that in them and he found a way to make it ok for everyone to be that way.”
“I was a huge fan growing up,” the Los Angeles native added. “Still am.”
White Mamba remembers Black Mamba. ♥️
— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) January 28, 2020
After the game, Team USA forward Nneka Ogwumike said that she hoped both teams did the Bryants proud with their performance.
“I would just hope that we did exactly what he would want us to do,” she told ESPN. “Exactly what Gigi would want to watch.”
After trailing for stretches of the game, Team USA pulled away from the Huskies for the 79-64 victory.
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- Photos of Kobe and Gigi Bryant show how the father-daughter duo shared a deep love for the game of basketball
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