In the days after the helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, celebrities and fans alike have mourned Bryant’s death by sharing stories about him.
One story in particular, shared by ESPN anchor Elle Duncan, struck a chord.
In a tearful on-air segment on Tuesday, Duncan talked about the time she met Bryant two years ago when she was pregnant with her daughter. At the time, Bryant and his wife Vanessa had three daughters, and had another girl in 2019.
“I asked him for advice on raising girls … and he said, ‘Just be grateful that you’ve been given that gift because girls are amazing,'” Duncan said.
“When I reflect on this tragedy, and that half an hour I spent with Kobe Bryant two years ago, I suppose that the only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most.
“Being a dad. Being a girl dad.”
Inspired by the story, dads from around the world took to social media to talk about their relationships with their daughters. The phrase #GirlDad quickly trended on Twitter.
Pro baseball star Alex Rodriguez, the father of two girls, was among the athletes and other celebrities who posted: “I’m so proud and lucky to be a #GirlDad.”
Regular dads also joined in, including Ken Heidelberg, 25, a shift supervisor for a Dallas security company.
“How much I love you, words or action will never be enough. I look at you and see perfection through my lens!” he tweeted along with a video of his one-year-old soon after she was born.
“Knowing that Kobe died with his daughter, I can’t imagine the pain as a parent,” Heidelberg said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Bryant and Gianna, also known as Gigi, were on their way to one of her basketball games at the time of the crash.
Duncan recalled asking Bryant two years ago if he wanted more children.
“He said that his wife, Vanessa, really wanted to try again for a boy, but was sort of jokingly concerned that it would be another girl,” she said. “I was like, ‘Four girls, are you joking? What would you think? How would you feel?’”
Bryant responded that all girls was just fine with him.
The basketball star wholeheartedly believed he passed on his “basketball gene” to Gigi, his second-eldest daughter.
In a 2018 interview with Access Hollywood, Bryant said he loved watching his daughter play.
“She got it,” he said. “She works … They practice two hours a day. She is fully committed.”
Vanessa Bryant made her first public comment Wednesday since the crash, taking to Instagram to thank people for the global outpouring of support.
She also announced the formation of a fund to help support the other families affected by the crash.
“Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them,” Vanessa Bryant wrote.
“There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever.”
— With files from the Associated Press and Global News’ Arti Patel