While the whole world was shaken with the news that NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26, 2020 (Monday, Manila time) the public was equally devastated to learn that his daughter, Gianna "Gigi" Bryant passed away with him. The father and daughter shared a passion for basketball and it was actually Gigi who reignited his love for the game.
When Kobe retired in 2016, after a 20-year-career at the NBA, he found other avenues to showcase his greatness—the NBA legend created a short film titled Dear Basketball, which won an Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2018, and he also became a published author, publishing a memoir and Young Adult novels titled The Wizenard Series. The basketball great also established a multimedia company called Granity Studios, which creates content for young adults, from TV shows to podcasts.
But despite these new, successful ventures, Kobe's love for the sport never really went away. Thanks to his daughter, Gigi, who was a fledgling basketball player, the retired superstar found his way back on the court as he coached and mentored his daughter's basketball team.
Kobe once mentioned that he saw Gigi as the heir to his legacy. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel in 2018, Kobe shared that his daughter, who dreamed of playing in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) would stand up to fans who told Kobe he needed to have a son to continue his legacy.
"The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans would come up to me and she'll be standing next to me, and they'll be like, 'You've gotta have a boy, you and V (Vanessa Laine, Kobe's wife) gotta have a boy," Kobe shares. "You gotta have somebody to carry on your tradition, the legacy."
"She's (Gigi) like, 'Oy, I got this,'" Kobe says. "I'm like, 'That's right. Yes, you do, you got this.'"
Kobe's love for each of his four daughters radiates in his social media accounts, but it was also clear he and Gigi shared a special bond over basketball. On his Instagram, he would often share photos of her at games or videos of the two of them playing together. The two were often seen watching numerous NBA games—especially Lakers games—recently.
"Before Gigi got into basketball, I hardly watched it, but now that she's into basketball, we watch every night," Kobe shared in a podcast interview with former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.
He adds, "We just had so much fun because it was the first time I was seeing the game through her eyes. It wasn't me sitting there as an athlete or a player or something like that…It was her—she was having such a good time."
In 2014, Kobe describes Gigi as "insanely, insanely competitive," in an interview with The New Yorker. At an early age, she was already adapting the "Mamba Mentality."
"Sh*t, that kid's like me. Damn it," he said of Gigi.
In December 2019, the two were spotted watching a game between the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks. Kobe is seen "breaking down the game" to his daughter while Gigi was smiling and laughing.
On the day of the accident, the father and daughter were allegedly on their way to a basketball tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy (which Kobe co-owns with Sports Academy CEO Chad Faulkner) in Thousand Oaks, California. Kobe was 41, while his daughter was 13 years old. They are survived by their family: Kobe's wife Vanessa, and three daughters, Natalia Diamante, 17; Bianka Bella, three; and Capri Kobe, seven months.