On Sunday, many people were in mourning after it was announced that influential basketball star Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, at just 41 years old. As if things couldn’t get any worse, it was soon revealed that Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, was also a passenger in the plane and didn’t survive the crash.
Despite her young age, Gianna was already showing a commitment to the game of basketball similar to her father. Kobe consistently praised her talents in various interviews.
In one interview with Jimmy Kimmel back in 2018, Bryant explained, “This kid, man, the best thing that happens is when we go out and fans come up to me, and she’ll be standing next to me and they’ll be like: ‘You’ve got to have a boy. You and [wife Vanessa] have got to have a boy, someone to carry on the tradition, the legacy.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, I got this.’”
According to BuzzFeed News, Kobe and Gianna were reportedly headed to the NBA legend’s Mamba Academy before their helicopter crashed. The youth sports training facility was founded by Bryant himself and he named it after his on-court nickname “Black Mamba.” Bryant gave himself the nickname based off the venomous snake, which strikes with ultimate speed and precision.
Gianna played on the Lady Mamba basketball team coached by her father. A Mamba Cup match was scheduled to occur on Sunday. In a Slam magazine video feature of Kobe and the Mamba team, Kobe explained, “We practice every damn night!”
Along with interviews praising his daughter, Kobe also posted many videos to his Instagram page showing his daughter in action. He even gifted her the nickname “Mambacita,” a name he planned on trademarking considering his filed paperwork with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to The Washington Post.
“Gigi at work #mambacita,” he wrote in one of his Instagram videos of Gianna back in 2018.
In one Instagram video, Kobe even boasted that Gianna might be taking after his popular fadeaway shot. “This is GREAT defense by our mamba pg Alyssa Altobelli and a familiar looking fade by our 2gd the #Mambacita,” he wrote in the caption.
Gianna had aspirations to play at the University of Connecticut, according to the Hartford Courant. Kobe and his daughter could often be seen at professional basketball games where it seemed like Kobe would be commentating on the game to Gianna and offering her pointers in real-time. One video was so popular that it became a viral GIF that people used for a humorous effect.
The love between a father and his daughter was clearly present. But don’t think that fact erased their competitive spirits. In one interview with SNY, a New York sports station, Bryant did a brief interview where he explained that he was happy to be retired and to watch basketball through his daughter’s eyes. At first, he said she was into soccer but then basketball eventually “became a true passion of hers.”
When the reporter asked Kobe if Gianna could beat him in a game, he let his daughter answer.
“Yeah,” she said without hesitation.
RIP Kobe and Gianna.