The Women’s National Basketball Association has named Gianna Bryant as an honorary selection in this year’s draft, ESPN reports.
Gianna was a basketball enthusiast and part of her father Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy where she was a star athlete. She had dreams of playing basketball professionally when she got older. Unfortunately, the 13-year-old passed away tragically in a helicopter crash this past January, alongside eight others including her father, NBA superstar, Kobe Bryant, and her teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester. Altobelli and Chester have also been named honorary selections in the WNBA draft.
Vanessa Bryant, Gianna’s mother, spoke about the draft saying, “It would have been a dream come true for her. Kobe and Gigi loved the WNBA. Thank you. I want to congratulate all of this year’s draft picks. Congratulations. Work hard. Never settle. Use that Mamba Mentality.”
Cathy Engelbert, commissioner for the WNBA, also announced the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award, recognizing “individuals or groups who have made significant contributions to the visibility, perception and advancement of women’s and girls’ basketball at all levels.”
The award will be revealed during the 2021 NBA All-Star Game by the WNBA and Bryant family and Vanessa will be instrumental in selecting the honoree each year. “Kobe was an incredible champion of women’s basketball and Gianna shared his passion and dedication to our game. The Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award will honor their legacy and reflect Kobe’s commitment to mentoring the next generation of players, promoting the game and giving back to the community,” Engelbert said.
A tribute video for each of the girls, Bryant, Altobelli and Chester, was played prior to the announcement. WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu, who spoke at the Bryants’ memorial service and was a close family friend said, “I think it was a very beautiful thing that the WNBA did to be able to draft those three girls. They deserved it. I know they’re looking down and smiling and really excited.”
What a beautiful tribute. Our love and prayers are with the family and friends.
Photo Courtesy of Mamba Sports Academy