UConn Huskies pay tribute to the late Gigi Bryant during an emotional matchup against the US Women's National Team
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 honored the young Bryant with a No. 2 jersey and floral arrangement perched on the UConn bench.
Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
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 honored 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 Hoops (@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 okay 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. ♥️📽️: @ESPN pic.twitter.com/HMe7NNgiz1 — 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.
Read more: Photos of Kobe and Gigi Bryant show how the father-daughter duo shared a deep love for the game of basketball Kobe Bryant started using helicopters as a player as a way to maintain his body and spend more time with his family Time will honor the late Kobe Bryant with a cover featuring his final bow Remembering the highlights of Kobe Bryant's illustrious career after his tragic death Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 5 things about the NFL that football fans may not know
More like this (3)
'Now he got me having to look at another crying meme for the next 3 years': Michael Jordan provided a moment of levity at the memorial service for Kobe and Gigi Bryant
The NBA world mourned the loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi at the Staples...The NBA world mourned the loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi at the Staples Center on Monday. Celebrities from Los Angeles as well as superstars from around the NBA gathered to pay their respects to Bryant, and share stories of their time with him. During his time at the podium, Michael Jordan provided the crowd with a much needed moment of levity, joking that he would once again become a meme as "Crying Jordan" after tearing up on stage. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The NBA world gathered at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant on Monday. While the gathering was a somber one, there were moments of levity, with former teammates sharing fond memories of the Lakers superstar, and former rivals paying their respects to Bryant one last time. Michael Jordan offered a touching eulogy for Bryant. "Kobe left nothing in the tank," Jordan began. "He left it all on the floor." "Kobe was my dear friend, he was like my little brother," Jordan said. "Everybody always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe." At one point, Jordan teared up, and provided a much-needed moment of levity in the midst of some depressing circumstances, referencing the "Crying Jordan" meme that was inescapable for years. "Now he's got me... I'll have to look at another crying meme for the next..." Jordan said, tears streaming down his face, before getting cut off by laughs and applause. "I told my wife I wasn't going to do this because I didn't want to see this for the next three or four years. That is what Kobe Bryant does to me." Michael Jordan provides some comic relief at the #KobeFarewell by bringing up his crying meme. 🤣 pic.twitter.com/7kAo7UxqPZ — Sporting News (@sportingnews) February 24, 2020 You can watch Jordan's whole speech below. “As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”Michael Jordan on Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/dTSp7VDosP — NBA TV (@NBATV) February 24, 2020 Read more: 'She was so full of life': Vanessa Bryant laments not being able to watch her daughter grow up at the memorial for Gianna and Kobe Michael Jordan's birthday party in Chicago featured a replica of Kobe Bryant's Lakers jersey — made entirely out of flowers Players and coaches at Kobe Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy describe the devastating moment they heard about the athlete's death WATCH: Los Angeles Lakers honor Kobe Bryant with stunning video celebration of his life and career This timeline shows everything we know — and what we don't — about the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 7 other peopleJoin the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 5 things about the NFL that football fans may not know
'He was my everything': Vanessa Bryant said she and Kobe had 'hoped to grow old together' in a tearful eulogy to her late husband
Speaking at a public memorial at Staples Center on Monday, a grieving Vanessa Bryant gave thousands...Speaking at a public memorial at Staples Center on Monday, a grieving Vanessa Bryant gave thousands of people glimpses of Kobe Bryant when he wasn't on the basketball court. The longtime Los Angeles Laker died on January 26 in a helicopter crash that killed his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, along with seven other passengers. "He would do anything for me," Vanessa Bryant said of her late husband, who was also a "doting" and "hands-on" father. "May you both rest in peace and have fun in Heaven. Until we meet again. We love you both, and miss you. Forever and always, Mommy," she said to Kobe and Gigi at the conclusion of her speech. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. In an emotional speech that had more than a few guests crying, Vanessa Bryant said on Monday that God knew her husband and daughter "couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to Heaven together." Kobe and Gianna Bryant were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas hills on January 26. Nearly 20,000 people were expected to attend the Celebration of Life that was held in memory of all the victims at the Staples Center, home to the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom the NBA icon spent his entire career. In her eulogy, Vanessa Bryant shared with people an intimate look into the man they know and revere as a basketball legend. "I couldn't see him as a celebrity nor just an incredible basketball player," she said. "He was my sweet husband, and the beautiful father of our children. He was mine. He was my everything." 'He would do anything for me' The pair had been together for nearly 20 years. Vanessa Bryant, now 37, was 17 when they met and Kobe Bryant, 21. "I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant, and his protector," she said. "He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words ... He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe." Vanessa Bryant also credited Kobe Bryant, her "soulmate," as the "romantic one" in their marriage, who looked forward to and made special plans for Valentine's Day and their anniversary. "He gave me the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in 'The Notebook' movie," she recalled, adding that he picked it because that's what Allie was wearing when she reunited with Noah. "We had hoped to grow old together like the movie," Vanessa Bryant said. "We really had an amazing love story. We loved each other with our whole beings. Two perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family, and raising our sweet and amazing girls." 'MVP of girl dads' "Kobe was the MVP of girl dads — or MVD," Bryant continued. "He never left the toilet seat up. He always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are. He taught them how to be brave and how to keep pushing forward when things get tough." She also shared funny stories about their time together, all of which highlighted his love for his family and children. After retiring from the NBA in 2018, Kobe Bryant opted to pick up and drop off their children from school. "When Kobe was still playing, I used to show up an hour early to be the first in line to pick up Natalia and Gianna from school, and I told him he couldn't drop the ball once he took over. He was late — one time — and we most definitely let him know that I was never late." After that he was at his girls' school an hour and 20 minutes before school let out, Vanessa Bryant said of Kobe Bryant's "doting," "hands-on" and "present" way of being a father. Never too busy for his family He was similarly "tender" toward her as well. "Kobe somehow knew where I was at all times, specifically when I was late to his games," Vanessa Bryant remembered. "He would worry about me if I wasn't in my seat at the start of each game. He would ask security where I was at the first time out of the first quarter. And my smart a-- would tell him that he wasn't going to drop 81 points within the first 10 minutes of the game." Eventually he realized that as a parent it's not always possible to stick to a schedule, she said, but "the fact that he could play on an intense professional level and still be concerned by making sure we made it to the game safely was just another example of how family came first to him. One of the greatest joys of Kobe Bryant's life was being able to coach Gigi's basketball team. "She was thoughtful like him," Vanessa Bryant shared. "They were so easy to love. Everyone naturally gravitated towards them. They were funny, happy, silly, and they loved life. They were so full of joy and adventure." Kobe had hoped Bianca and Capri would follow in his footsteps so he could spend extra time with them, Vanessa Bryant said. But that wasn't to be. "Now they won't have their daddy and sister here to teach them, and that is truly a loss I do not understand. But I'm so thankful Kobe heard Coco say 'Dada,'" she said. 'Until we meet again' His tragic death means their family will miss out on all the memories that had yet to create together, from small moments like his youngest children starting kindergarten to being able to walk all four girls down the aisle one day. "But I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband, and father he was" and the effort he put into empowering the youth, she said. In a voice that broke, Vanessa Bryant spoke directly to her husband and asked him to enjoy his time with their daughter. "Babe, you take care of our Gigi, and I got Nani, BB, and Coco," she said, her voice breaking. "We are still the best team. We love and miss you, booboo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in Heaven. Until we meet again. We love you both, and miss you. Forever and always, Mommy." Read more: 'She was so full of life': Vanessa Bryant laments not being able to watch her daughter grow up at the memorial for Gianna and Kobe 'God I wish they were here': Vanessa Bryant described her raw grief at losing Kobe and Gianna, alongside a video of them playing basketball Vanessa Bryant posted a heartbreaking tribute to Kobe and Gianna: 'There aren't enough words to describe our pain right now' Vanessa Bryant announced a fund to direct donations to other families of victims of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Most maps of Louisiana aren't entirely right. Here's what the state really looks like.
In NBA-loving China, Kobe Bryant became one of the biggest stars.