Gianna Bryant wasn’t destined to be a regular teenager. The daughter of NBA icon Kobe Bryant was poised to follow in her dad’s footsteps and change the game of basketball, like he did during his heyday with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Earlier this year, the world was stunned when 13-year-old Gianna, who was known as "Gigi," was killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California with her father by her side. Seven other people, including two teenage teammates, were killed in the tragedy.
Kobe, a five-time NBA champion, was known as the “Mamba” on the court due to his sharp focus. Gigi, his second-oldest daughter, was known as "Mambacita" due to her playing style, which bore a striking resemblance to that of her famous dad.
About a month before the tragedy, cameras caught Kobe giving Gigi a breakdown of playing and what to look for while they sat courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game.
Gigi had dreams of attending the University of Connecticut and becoming a "Lady Husky" by playing for the school’s celebrated team.
“Her skill was undeniable at an early age,” WNBA star Diana Taurasi said at February’s "A Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna.”
At the same event, University of Oregon women’s basketball star Sabrina Ionescu called Gigi “the future” of women’s basketball in America.
Gigi's mother Vanessa Bryant remembered her daughter as a sweet and a girl who kissed her mom each night before bed. She was a daddy’s girl who loved baking and watching Disney movies with her siblings, Natalia, Capri and Bianka, she said. Her mom described her disposition as “infectious, pure and genuine.”
Vanessa once described her daughter as a leader and rule follower. Much like her father, Gigi was multilingual. As Kobe spoke fluent Italian from growing up in Italy, Gigi spoke Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.
For Gigi, the future seemed like it was going to be written beautifully as she would become a college basketball star, play in the WNBA and maybe one day even represent America in the Olympics.
“[Gianna] will be standing next to me, and [fans] will be like, ‘You gotta have a boy. You and [wife Vanessa] gotta have a boy, you gotta have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh! I got this. Don’t need no boy for that! I got this,’” Kobe told Jimmy Kimmel in a appearance on his show in 2018.