All the Ways Gianna Bryant Has Been Honored Since Her Shocking Death

Gianna Bryant, who was already a basketball star in the making when she died along with her father Kobe Bryant and seven others in a helicopter crash in January, would have turned 14 on May 1

By Natalie Finn 01 May, 2020 1:00 PMTags
Watch: How Gianna Bryant Is Being Honored After Her Death

Gianna Bryant was going to be 14 years old on May 1.

Gigi, as she was familiarly called, would have been about to finish the eighth grade at Harbor Day School, after which she'd spend the summer shooting hoops and gossiping with her girlfriends as they got ready for their first year of high school—where she would have crushed it playing for her school team, while still being coached by her legendary athlete of a dad, Kobe Bryant, at his Mamba Sports Academy. Even with physical distancing orders in place, we know Kobe would've figured out how to keep his daughter's ball-handling skills sharp with home workouts.

Maybe it would've been the summer he started breaking down game film for her.

Instead, Kobe and Gianna are gone, having died along with seven others, including two of her young teammates, in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 when they were on their way to a routine Sunday game.

The outpouring of grief wasn't just confined to the city of Los Angeles, where Kobe spent 20 years playing for the Lakers and won five championship rings. The sadness was felt globally, a collective deflation of spirit for a sports great gone and the possibility for future achievement lost. 

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Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant's Public Memorial: Stars Attend Celebration of Life

And as it turned out, that what-should've-been feeling was hardly confined to thoughts about Kobe. Those who had been watching his second-oldest daughter come into her own as a basketball player, who had been paying close attention to the dynamic of the Bryant-family-of-six, knew that the world was going to miss out on something special. 

Gianna, sporting a No. 2 on the court, had already set her sights on college, and her proud dad knew she would end up playing professionally should she so desire. He had filed to trademark the Mambacita offshoot of his Black Mamba alter ego so that she could go forth and prosper with a moniker that symbolized hard work, dedication and incomparable fierceness that, by all accounts, she had already earned as a kid.

So, it's been only fitting that family, friends, those from the world of basketball and admirers of all stripes paid special tribute to Gianna, sometimes alongside but also separately from her famous father. Here are the various ways that the life and talent of Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant have been honored so far:

Husky for Eternity

Gianna wanted to play for the best college women's program and none has been more triumphant than the University of Connecticut Huskies, winner of a record 11 NCAA championships. They left a courtside seat open for the their should've-been All-American at their Jan. 27 game against the USA Women's Basketball Team, decorating the chair with a bouquet of flowers and a special No. 2 jersey.

Changing Numbers

Lakers guard Quinn Cook retired his own No. 2, which he wore in high school, college and the 2019-20 NBA season, out of respect for Gianna, and switched to No. 28, a combination of her number and the 8 Kobe wore from 1996 until 2006. Cook called Bryant his hero and was among the crowd of fans paying his respects at the impromptu shrine that sprung up outside Staples Center in the hours and days following the helicopter crash.

Glittering Tribute

Jennifer Lopez, who later attended the memorial for Kobe and Gigi with fiancé Alex Rodriguez, displayed an intricately manicured 24 on one hand and a 2 on the other.

Hometown Love

The marquee at Staples Center was lit up only for Kobe and Gigi on Jan. 31 before the Lakers' first game back after their deaths.

Team Mamba Assembles

Gianna's teammates were courtside for the Lakers' first game since her and Kobe's deaths, which followed a pre-game ceremony featuring video tributes, music from Boyz II MenUsher, cellist Ben Hong and Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, and an emotional speech by LeBron James.

There in Spirit

Where Kobe and Gianna had sat just months before, their numbers remained as the Lakers took on the Portland Trailblazers.

Hearts in Atlanta

A moment of silence was held before kickoff at Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2.

Missing a Classmate

Harbor Day School retired Gianna's No. 2 jersey that she wore for the Blue-Gold at a ceremony on Feb. 5. Gigi's fellow student council members remembered all the ideas she had--including making sure there was more access to sports during recess--and how she brought people together.

A Natural Leader

"She always showed up with a smile and motivated us to do more," one boy said. "She pushed us to take action. She took projects into her own hands and was a team player, like every leader should be."

Paying It Forward

"Because there is no #24 without #2," the Mamba Sports Foundation was changed to the Mamba & Mambacity Sports Foundation, effective immediately.

"Our mission remains the same—and stronger than ever—to provide opportunities to young people through sports," Vanessa Bryant wrote on Feb. 13. "Thank you all for the outpouring of support and your kind donations to date as we carry forth Kobe and Gigi's legacy. We hope to empower young athletes in a world they left us all to help shape."

Life Goals

Olympic gold medalist soccer player Sydney Leroux honored Gianna with a new tattoo.

Entwined Forever

Kobe's sister Sharia Washington also got new ink to honor her brother and niece.

#GirlDad

Paying tribute to Kobe and Gianna at the 2020 All-Star Game on Feb. 16 was paramount, and Western Conference captain LeBron James had his team wear No. 2. Asked why he'd gone with Gigi's number, James, a father of two sons and one daughter, replied with one word: "Zhuri."

Two by Four

The Eastern Conference players, captained by Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, all wore No. 24, Kobe's Lakers number starting in 2006, but also his number from his earliest days playing for Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia before he switched to 33—the number the school retired. That jersey was stolen from the school's gym in 2017, but was returned in February 2020 in time for the memorial ceremony.

A Higher Cause

For the first time, the All-Star Game tried out a new format in honor of the departed, awarding whichever team scored the most points in each of the first three quarters $100,000 for charity. Team LeBron took the first, Team Giannis the second. They tied in the third, so the $100,000 was added to the $200,000 pot awaiting whichever team was first to score 24 points (plus whatever more might be needed to win) in an untimed fourth quarter.

Team LeBron, wearing No. 2, ended up with the 157-155 win, and $400,000 for the Chicago Scholars Foundation.

Cultural Icons

Tribute was paid to Kobe and Gianna at the 2020 NAACP Image Awards, held Feb. 22 in Pasadena, Calif.

Missing Her Baby Girl

There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Vanessa Bryant spoke publicly for the first time at the "Celebration of Life" held for Kobe and Gigi at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2-24-20 all meaningful numbers in the Bryant family, 20 also representing the years Kobe spent with the Lakers.

Calling Gigi one of her "very best friends," Vanessa told the crowd, "Gigi was very competitive like her daddy, but she had a sweet grace about her. Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face, like mine. Kobe always said she was me. She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm, and she was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine."

 

Together Forever

"They were funny, happy, silly, and they loved life," Vanessa said. "They were so full of joy and adventure. God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nati, BiBi and KoKo, and we're still the best team."

In the Details

Beyonce wore her heart on her fingertips as she got ready to perform "XO" and "Halo" at the memorial.

Gone Pro

Along with her late teammates Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna was an honorary pick in the 2020 WNBA draft, held online this year on April 17.

"The WNBA selects Gianna 'Gigi' Bryant, guard from Newport Beach, California," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced.

Championship Spirit

"It would have been a dream come true for her," Vanessa Bryant said in a video she recorded from home that played during her daughter's highlight reel. "She worked tirelessly every single day. She wanted to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, just like her daddy. So thank you for honoring my little girl."

 

Next year during the 2021 NBA All-Star Game Weekend, Vanessa Bryant will present the first-ever Kobe and Gigi Bryant Advocacy Award in partnership with the WNBA, established to recognize "an individual or group who has made significant contributions to the visibility, perception and advancement of women's and girls' basketball." A charitable component will highlight "Kobe's legacy as a coach and mentor and Gigi's inspirational, relentless commitment to playing at the highest levels of the game."

Gianna should have had so many more chances to soak up the honors coming to her in person, but she did manage to already leave a mark on the game she loved so much, which will endure.