Just one day before their tragic deaths, Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant shared a special day together at his Mamba Sports Academy. On Saturday, January 25, the father-daughter duo teamed up for a game of basketball with her team, the Lady Mavericks. The retired Lakers player coached his daughter and her pals as they faced off against the competition.
Bryant, 41, had four daughters that he showered with love, but he and Gigi, 13, shared a passion for their sport, and could frequently be found bonding over it together. The father’s Instagram account often featured photos of his daughter’s time on the court as she practiced and played. But she didn’t just follow in his footsteps in playing the game — she also had her own nickname inspired by his. After the professional athlete dubbed himself the Black Mamba, he took to calling his second daughter Mambacita.
In December 2019, the pair even became a meme when cameras caught them sitting courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game. The viral video of them breaking down the play-by-play warmed the hearts of many.
On Sunday, January 26, however, Bryant and Gigi were two of the nine victims who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. They were headed back to the sports academy where they’d spent time the day before. Among the other passengers were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri Altobelli, and his daughter, Alyssa Altobelli. Christina Mauser, an assistant coach for Mamba Academy’s girls’ basketball team, also passed away, and so did mother-daughter duo Sarah and Payton Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Since the news broke, celebrities and fans alike have taken to social media to share their love for the sports legend as well as the other passengers. “There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of [losing] my niece Gigi [and] my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie,” Bryant’s former teammate Shaquille O’Neal shared on Instagram. “I love you and you will be missed. My condolences [go] out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. I’m sick right now.”
Michael Jordan also shared his heartbreak over the news. “I am in shock,” he wrote in a statement. “I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. … Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply — and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”
Check out the gallery below to see the photos of Bryant coaching Gigi and her team just one day before their deaths.
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