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.
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:
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.