Kobe Bryant wholeheartedly believed he passed on his “basketball gene” to his daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, or Gigi.
Both Bryant and Gigi were among nine killed in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles on Sunday.
Gigi, 13, was the NBA superstar’s second-eldest daughter and she, too, loved the game of basketball.
In a 2018 interview with Access Hollywood, Bryant said he loved watching his daughter play.
“She got it,” he said. “She works … they practise two hours a day. She is fully committed.”
Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Bryant added it was fun to see his daughter play the same sport he played for decades.
“It’s fun to watch them grow.”
In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel in September 2019, Bryant talked about raising four daughters with his wife Vanessa. The couple’s youngest daughter, Capri Kobe Bryant, is only seven months old.
“I love raising daughters,” he said to the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live. “My wife wants a boy more so than I do… but I love my girls.”
A love for basketball
Gigi was born on May 1, 2006 and had a love for basketball at a young age.
According to The Athletic, Gigi watched her father for years and began playing competitive basketball herself. Most recently, she played in tournaments for the Mamba Sports Academy, the academy Bryant co-founded in 2018.
According to CNN, Gigi was expected to play on Sunday, along with teammate Alyssa Altobelli, who was also in the helicopter with her parents.
On another Jimmy Kimmel Live segment in 2018, Bryant said he believed Gigi wanted to play in the WNBA one day.
“The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans will come up to me like, ‘Hey, you gotta have a boy, you and (Vanessa) gotta have a boy — somebody to carry on the legacy and the tradition,’ and (Gigi) will be like ‘Oy, I got this. We don’t need a boy for that. I got this.’”
Bryant would frequently post photos of his daughter playing basketball on his personal Instagram page, even giving her the nickname “Mambacita.” The five-time champion was called “Black Mamba” on the court.
In the 2018 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Bryant said he was also coaching Gigi’s amateur basketball team.
“We try to teach the kids what excellence looks like,” he said.
“Some of them want to play for the WNBA, some of them may not … but we try to give them a foundation of the amount of work and preparation it takes in whatever you choose to do.”
Gigi on the NBA court
For years, fans of Bryant also saw the legend interact with his daughters on the court.
In 2009, after defeating the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in June, Bryant was seen in an adorable embrace with Gigi wearing Lakers colours.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
In 2016 in Toronto, an older Gigi was seen warming up with her dad during the NBA All-Star Game at the Air Canada Centre.
The two wore matching red “West” gear.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Most recently, the two became a viral sensation in December when Bryant was seen “breaking down” the game to his daughter courtside.
Taken during a game between the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks, the clip instantly went viral.
During a January interview with basketball podcast All The Smoke, Bryant said that after his retirement, he began to cut back on watching basketball.
“Before Gigi got into basketball, I hardly watched it, but now that she’s into basketball, we watch every night,” told hosts.