Gianna Bryant, 13, dies in helicopter crash with father Kobe Bryant
Gianna Bryant, the 13-year-old daughter of Vanessa and Kobe Bryant, died in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, California, that also killed her father. Kobe Bryant was 41.
Seven other people died in the crash, which occurred about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
Gianna, whose nickname was Gigi, was the second oldest of the Bryant’s four daughters. The couple are also parents to Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, who was born in June.
Gianna shared her father’s love of basketball and was a standout in her own right. They were reported to have been on their way to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks at the time of the crash.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who led the NBA in the final years of Bryant’s career, said in a statement Sunday that Bryant “will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.”
“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,” Silver said.
Bryant, who spent 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, would often refer to Gianna in Instagram posts as “Mambacita,” inspired by the nickname “The Black Mamba,” which he gave himself.
When asked whether Gianna might want to play in the WNBA during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in October 2018, Bryant said, without hesitation, “She does for sure.”
“The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans will come up to me and she’ll be standing next to me and they’ll be like, ‘You gotta have a boy. You and V gotta have a boy. You gotta have somebody carry on your tradition, your legacy.'”
Bryant said Gianna would respond: “I got this.” And, he said, he believed she did.
Bryant has said that Gianna was “hellbent” on going to the University of Connecticut, a women’s basketball powerhouse.
And in a podcast that aired Jan. 9, Bryant said Gianna was the reason he started watching more NBA games after he retired.
“You know what’s funny?” Bryant asked hosts Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. “So before Gigi got into basketball, I hardly watched it. But now that’s she’s into basketball, it’s on every night.”
“And I mean every game,” he said.
Bryant said Gianna asked him to get NBA League Pass on her phone, a service that features every game in the league. “She watches everything.”
He said Gianna took particular interest in watching Trae Young, who plays for the Atlanta Hawks, and LeBron James, among others.
“She watches who I would watch, I guess,” he said.
Bryant also spoke of how much fun the two had at the first Lakers game he attended since his jersey was retired. “We just had so much fun,” he said. “Because it was the first time I was seeing the game through her eyes.”
Bryant said that at that game, James, who joined the Lakers after Bryant retired, spoke to Gianna about her fadeaway jumper — a shot that Bryant had mastered in his 20-year career.
Gianna had been spotted sitting courtside with her father at NBA games in recent months. A video of Bryant seemingly discussing basketball with Gianna at Barclays Center in New York in December went viral this month.
On Sunday, the video recirculated as Bryant and Gianna were memorialized on social media by many who reflected on their bond.
Since retiring in 2016, Bryant spent more time coaching Gianna and her middle school team. He would often share videos from practices and games. In September 2017, he posted two videos of them playing one-on-one. “A lil one on one with my baby Gigi,” he captioned one of the videos.
And in September, Bryant posted a photo of himself with Gianna and her teammates two years ago.
“The beauty of coaching is growing the players from the ground up,” the caption read, in part. “That journey continues.”