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The University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team honored Gianna Bryant at a game Monday night, the day after she and her father Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.
Gianna, who was 13 when she died, had aspired to play for the NCAA team, and attended several UConn Huskies games with her dad, who once said she was “hellbent” on attending the college.
In the wake of the tragic accident in Calabasas, California, that killed the pair and seven other people on Sunday, the UConn women’s team paid tribute to Gianna before their game against Team USA.
They set aside a No. 2 jersey ― the number Gianna wore ― on a courtside seat.
Mambacita is forever a Husky 💙 pic.twitter.com/3wdAbdK0Ye
— UConn Women’s Hoops (@UConnWBB) January 27, 2020
In August, Bryant had shared images of his daughter’s team, the Mambas, at a training session with some UConn players.
In a 2018 interview, Bryant said his daughter idolized Chicago Sky player Gabby Williams, who was drafted to the WNBA after attending UConn.
“My daughter loves Gabby Williams, absolutely loves Gabby, loves [all of them],” Bryant said, according to the Hartford Courant. “She watches their interviews, watches how they play and learns — not just in wins, but in tough losses, how they conduct themselves. It’s great, as a parent, to be able to see my daughter pull inspiration from them.”
Bryant was known for his vocal support of not only his daughter’s budding basketball prowess but also women’s leagues in the sport. The WNBA released a statement honoring him for his “passion for the WNBA and women’s basketball along with his passion for helping young girls and boys follow their dreams.”
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Kobe Bryant really doted on his daughters — that is, according to Elle Duncan, an anchor on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
A day after the tragic and sudden death of the basketball legend — who died Sunday in a helicopter crash along with eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna — Duncan decided to share her one-time encounter with the five-time NBA champion.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 28, 2020
Duncan begins her anecdote by saying she met Bryant backstage at an ESPN event about two years ago, and wanted nothing more than to get “a picture for the ’gram” with the Lakers star. Duncan had to wait a bit for that photo, however, because Bryant was completely distracted by something else.
“He immediately commented on my rather large eight-month pregnant belly,” Duncan said.
She said that Bryant excitedly peppered her with questions about her pregnancy, including if she knew the sex of her unborn child yet. When Duncan responded that she was having a girl, Bryant excitedly offered her a high-five and said, “Girls are the best.”
“I asked him advice on raising girls,” Duncan continued. “As he quite famously had three at the time. He said, ‘Just be grateful that you’ve been given that gift because girls are amazing.’ His third daughter, Bianka, was about a year and a half old at the time, so I asked if he wanted more children. And he said that his wife, Vanessa, really wanted to try again for a boy, but was sort of jokingly concerned that it would be another girl.”
When Duncan asked Bryant what he thought about raising four girls, she said that Bryant said, “without hesitation,” that he would “have five more girls if I could. I’m a girl dad.” (The couple welcomed their fourth daughter, Capri, in 2019.)
Duncan then began to choke up as she explained that Bryant then complimented his daughters’ athletic abilities. Duncan’s voice shook as she recalled what Bryant said about his middle child at the time.
“[She’s] a monster, a beast, she’s better than I was at her age [on the basketball court],” Duncan said Bryant told her.
“Of course, that middle one was Gigi,” Duncan said, her voice trembling, referring to Gianna.
With tears in her eyes, Duncan concluded: “When I reflect on the tragedy and the half an hour I spent with Kobe Bryant two years ago, I suppose the only small source of comfort for me is knowing he died doing what he loved the most. Being a dad. Being a girl dad.”
In response to Duncan’s story about Bryant, many men posted on Twitter how they were proud “girl dads” as well, sparking the hashtag #girldad. Duncan was touched by the hashtag and tweeted about it on Tuesday.
I’m so moved by the outpouring of support behind my story about Kobe. And I love that #girldad is trending.. so for all those proud fathers who still have their girls to love on can you flood my timeline with pics of you and your flock. Honestly I need it as much as anyone rt now
— Elle Duncan (@elleduncanESPN) January 28, 2020
“I’m so moved by the outpouring of support behind my story about Kobe,” she wrote Tuesday. “And I love that #girldad is trending.. so for all those proud fathers who still have their girls to love on can you flood my timeline with pics of you and your flock. Honestly I need it as much as anyone rt now.”
An Adelaide police officer has channelled his inner Kobe Bryant to battle a group of basketballers shooting hoops in a park.
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