Reliving Kobe Bryant and Mambacita Gigi's heart-melting relationship on what would have been her 14th birthday
Gianna ‘Gigi’ Bryant would have turned 14 on May 1, if she was not killed in a tragic helicopter accident along with her father Kobe Bryant, on January 26 earlier his year.
Just like her NBA legend dad, Gigi, who was the second eldest among her siblings, showed a world of talent for basketball. Bryant acknowledged that the teen wanted to follow in his footsteps and hence had nicknamed her 'Mambacita'. She would accompany her dad to the Staples Center to watch the Lakers and would visit WNBA games as well, Essentially Sports reported.
The father-daughter duo had a very close bond, most of which came from their mutual love for basketball. She was the reason Bryant established the Mamba Academy, and it’s why he coached her high school team for the last two years.
In a 2018 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Bryant said that whenever someone suggested how easy it would have been for him to pass on his legacy if he had a son, he would just shrug his shoulders and brush off that comment because he was proud to be a father of four daughters and often referred to himself as a "girl dad."
“This kid, man... I’m telling you, 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, ‘Oi, I got this!'” Bryant said. “That’s right. Yes, you do. You got this.”
Similarly, in another instance, he said, "My friends say, 'It takes a real man to make a boy'. I'm like, 'Dude, it takes a king to make a princess... get in line.' It's pretty cool for me 'cause it's Daddy's little princesses."
Even Bryant's return to basketball after having retired from the sport in 2016 had everything to do with Gigi. “You know what’s funny,” he said, the Herald Sun reported. “Before Gigi got into basketball I hardly watched it, but now that’s she’s into basketball, we watch every night.”
A month before tragedy struck that claimed the lives of the father and the daughter, videos of Bryant breaking down the game to Gigi went viral on social media with people coming up with various memes along with their own captions about everyday life.
Shortly after news of their deaths broke, ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols had to fight back tears while remembering a moment when she had witnessed the bond between the pair.
“The way he loved being on the court with (Gigi and his elder daughter Natalia, 17), talking with people like me, bragging about them, and teaching them the game and sharing that part of his love with them,” she said. “That was Kobe Bryant these days. He was somebody who loved his kids and loved the world and what was open to him for it.”