LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Gianna Bryant may have been only 13 years old, but she already had her father’s signature Mamba scowl and his fade-away jumper down pat.
The girl affectionately nicknamed “Mambacita” by her parents, but who was better known as Gigi, was honored Monday night by the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team with a jersey with her number it, christening her “forever a Husky.”
Mambacita is forever a Husky 💙 pic.twitter.com/3wdAbdK0Ye
— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) January 27, 2020
Gigi, who died Sunday in the helicopter crash that also killed her father Kobe Bryant and seven others, was a rising basketball star in her own right and had her heart set on joining the UConn women’s basketball team one day, with the ultimate goal of playing for the WNBA.
Gigi grew up in the spotlight, a toddler who laughed as she got kisses from her superstar father as he did interviews at the NBA finals and amid the raucous celebrations immediately after the Lakers won the 2010 NBA championships. As she became a teenager, she became more interested in taking on the basketball superstar mantle herself.
PHOTO GALLERY: Gigi Bryant Through The Years
Bryant, a 5-time NBA champion, coached Gigi’s AAU basketball team out of his Mamba Sports Academy training facility in Thousand Oaks, where the helicopter was headed when it crashed Sunday. They were accompanied by 7 others, including two teenage teammates of Gigi, their parents and another coach.
…This S*** can’t be real… this the first moment I was able to meet Gianna Maria, she’s been to only 3 games this year… 2 of them were mine… She told me I was her favorite player to watch🙏🏽 I can’t believe this😢😭
Rest Easy Gigi❤️ pic.twitter.com/IfDrE9Gjlv
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) January 26, 2020
— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) January 26, 2020
Her parent’s Instagram pages are filled with videos of Gigi playing basketball – even in heels — and meeting her personal heroes like Lynx player and UConn alumna Napheesa Collier.
Bryant was famous for his ferocious competitiveness, but his daughter may have been even more so, judging by anecdotes the basketball superstar told in interviews.
“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 will be like, ‘You gotta have a boy, you and V [wife Vanessa] gotta have a boy, man, to have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy.’ And [Gigi] is like, ‘I got this!’” Bryant told late night host Jimmy Kimmel in 2018.