by Kelsey Klemme | Fri., May. 1, 2020 3:00 AM
She was destined not only to follow her father's legacy, but make her own.
Today, Gianna "Gigi" Bryant should be turning 14 years old and be celebrating by training with her dad, Kobe Bryant.
After all, the rising basketball star was dedicated to the game, and no doubt would be continuing to practice the fadeaway shot she was already being praised for learning so early on.
Everyone knew of Kobe's legacy, but many also knew how proud the five-time NBA champion was of his second eldest daughter who was quickly proving she had earned her Mambacita nickname with her promising future in sports.
The young teen was already planning on becoming a Husky, hoping to play for the renowned UConn women's basketball team, although plenty of other players such as former UCLA star Reggie Miller would beg her father to convince her to consider their schools as well.
Anyone who followed sports knew we were watching the birth of a future WNBA star whenever she hit the court, and some of Gianna's favorite players like Gabby Williams knew she was talented beyond her years.
It was heartbreaking for the world to see the loss of a daughter and sister, but for fans of the game it was also difficult to see the loss of someone who was both following her father's footsteps while forging her own path.
In honor of Gigi's birthday, we are looking back at her life in photos.
From seeing her courtside at her father's championship-winning games to seeing her own the court herself, Gianna was a force to be reckoned with.
So, here is to the girl who dominated in the No. 2 jersey.
Rest in power, Mambacita.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
On May 1, 2006, Gianna "Gigi" Bryant was born, blessing Vanessa and Kobe Bryant with their second daughter.
Gianna would later welcome two additional sisters, with Vanessa saying during her public memorial speech at Staples that Gianna took her role of being a big sister very seriously.
"She liked helping me with Bianka and Capri," she said. "Bianka loved going to the playground, swimming and jumping on the trampoline with Gigi. I used to tell Gigi that I thought KoKo considered her her favorite sister. Capri would smile from ear to ear when Gigi walked into the room."
When Kobe Bryant made history—which with five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals and broken records was often—his Mambacita was always by his side.
When Kobe brought the Lakers a championship in 2009, the world saw his young daughter holding a trophy nearly the same size as herself on the court and joining him on the parade float later.
And while she was thrilled for her father's success, Gianna was destined to do more than cheer for her dad on the sidelines: she was also set to follow his footsteps and become a basketball legend of her own.
At such a young age, Gianna went from courtside to the court, training exceptionally hard and quickly rising to be one of the most promising young women in basketball.
Per Slate, she and her father would make it a priority to travel across the country to see players like Trae Young in action so that Gianna could always be upping her technique and game.
After his retirement, Kobe opened the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, where he trained his daughter and also proudly shared her progress to his fans on Twitter.
In videos posted to Instagram, the Lakers star showed off his 13-year-old sinking the net on the fadeaway shot made famous by him, a move that that not many players, let alone a teenager, can easily pull off.
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Chris Costello via MoPho / SplashNews.com
Every parent thinks their child is talented, but it wasn't just Kobe who saw Gianna's potential.
Everyone from college coaches to other players to thousands of fans were invested in Gianna's future, but she had her eyes set on playing for UConn.
According to NBA.com, she and her father would attend games at the college renowned for its women's basketball team, and players like Gabby Williams praised the teen, saying, "she was going to be heaps better than me."
"She had the right mentality, so confident, relentless, so mean and aggressive," Williams told NBA.com. "And then (she would) walk off the court with the biggest, sweetest smile on her face. But my favorite part about her was just seeing how much she loved the game and loved to learn.
Kirby Lee via AP
On an appearance at Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2018, Kobe gushed about his daughter's future in the sport he was an icon in, stating that she "for sure" planned to become a WNBA star.
Kobe continued that, "When we go out, and fans will come out to me and she'll be standing next to me and they'll be like, 'You gotta have a boy, you and V gotta have a boy, man. You gotta have somebody carry on your tradition, the legacy."
But, he bragged that Gigi would shake that sentiment off and say, "I got this" instead.
Gigi's talent, and her father's relentless belief in her, had the entire world watching her future...making it all the more heartbreaking when it was cut tragically short.
On the morning of Sunday, January 26 of this year, Kobe and Gianna set out to Thousand Oaks for the Mamba Academy. With the teen training five, six, sometimes seven times a week at the facility, it seemed as routine as any other day.
Sadly, the two and seven others never made it to the facility when the helicopter they were in crashed in bad weather.
The pain and unfairness of losing not only a legend but also a future one sent shockwaves through the NBA, Los Angeles and around the globe.
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Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Immediately following the news of Gigi's death, organizations and players close to the rising star and her father paid tribute in touching ways.
UConn, the school that Gianna was so excited to become a future Husky at, placed a No. 2 jersey on their bench for one of their games, writing on Twitter, "Mambacita is forever a Husky."
The WNBA also selected Gianna—along with players Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester who also passed away in the crash—as honorary WNBA draft picks.
Additionally, the organization announced the Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award to honor a player who makes contributions to the visibility, perception and advancement of girls and women's basketball.
While Gianna's future was cut short, her father's Mamba Sports Foundation made sure the teen was remembered for generations to follow.
The foundation was renamed to Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, paying homage to Gigi's nickname, and empowers underserved communities through youth sports, giving the opportunity for others to find love and a future in the sport like Gigi did.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
When Vanessa paid tribute to her daughter at the Staples Center memorial, she noted how bright of a future her daughter had.
"She was an incredible athlete," her mother said. "Gigi was confident, but not in an arrogant way. She loved helping and teaching other people things. At school, she offered the boys basketball coaches to help give the basketball team some pointers. She was very much like her daddy and they both liked helping people learn new things and master them."
And while Gigi is gone, her legacy will never be forgotten. From her family's Foundation to the Mamba Academy to inspiring other teens to rise to her level of talent, there is no doubt that somewhere a little girl is training right now to be the next UConn or WNBA star, and carry the spirit of the No. 2 jersey in their heart.
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