Kobe Bryant was all too aware of the pressures of following in the footsteps of greatness.
He entered the NBA in 1996 straight from high school as a teenager, just as another of the sport's all-time legends was in the midst of a second career championship three-peat.
In a feature published after Bryant's second season titled "Teenager of the Year", Rolling Stone noted "the nineteen-year-old is already being hyped as the next Michael Jordan".
Being anointed as a successor to the game's greatest ever player is a heavy burden to carry but Bryant delivered: five NBA titles, a league MVP, two finals MVPs, 18 All-Star appearances, two Olympic gold medals and retiring as the game's third-highest all-time scorer.
So it was fitting the NBA superstar, who was killed in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in California today, played a guiding role in the basketball fortunes of others – including his own children.
Gianna, also known as GiGi, was a budding basketball star and was a regular sight courtside at NBA games alongside her father.
She was a member of Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy and her all-girls team was coached by the Lakers great. More than 50,000 athletes are supported by the program.
The pair often flew from their Orange County home to games, as they were doing when their helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas this morning.
Bryant often spoke of his pride in Gianna's dream of pursuing a professional basketball career in the WNBA.
"This kid, man," Bryant told talk show host Jimmy Kimmel in 2018.
"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, you and V (wife Vanessa) gotta have a boy, have somebody carry on the tradition and the legacy'.
"She's like, 'oi – I got this. We don't need no boy for that'."
Just last month, a clip of Bryant giving basketball tips to Gianna courtside at an NBA game did the rounds online.
The footage, which has been widely shared again today, takes on a new, heartbreaking light in the wake of their deaths.
In yet another video, a proud Bryant beams as his daughter drains basket after basket in a one-on-one battle.https://twitter.com/SLAMonline/status/1221539178992762881
Bryant told the New Yorker in 2014 Gianna had a competitive streak to match his own infamous ruthless nature.
He recalled playing the board game Candy Land with the "insanely competitive" three-year-old.
"You know, it's my move," he said.
"She obviously can see that I can win, so she'll know that I'm not-winning on purpose. Then what's that teaching?
"So I just play the game, I win - and the kid goes ape s---.
"She knocked the board over. 'Baaaaaaa!'
"I was, like, 'S---, the kid's like me. Damn it.'"
For all his basketball success, Bryant's dedication to his family has been a common theme in the countless tributes to him today – notable given a high-profile sexual assault allegation in 2003 that was later dropped and settled in a civil case.
Fellow retired superstar Jordan paid tribute to his "little brother" Bryant's love of family.
"Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball," Jordan said.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver paid tribute Bryant's impact on the sport's next generation.
"He will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability," Mr Silver said.
"He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna."
Bryant and Gianna are survived by his wife Vanessa and children Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/kobe-bryant-daughter-gianna-was-budding-basketball-star/318da634-6e6c-4144-b1c2-02ea6d9ae98a