A photo of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna sitting court-side at their last Los Angeles Lakers game together is special and poignant for the obvious reasons — and a more subtle one.
In the image, showing the father and daughter smiling and embracing, the former professional basketball player is wearing an orange sweatshirt with the WNBA logo on it.
“On December 29th, one of the last pictures with Gigi was Kobe wearing the orange WNBA sweatshirt we gave him,” Cathy Engelbert, the organization’s commissioner, shared at the 2020 Makers Conference. “I never thought he would wear it, by the way. But there he was court-side at a Lakers game, and thank goodness we have that picture to remember his advocacy by.”
Engelbert, who took on the role of WNBA commissioner in July 2019, shared that in her nearly seven months in the role, Bryant is still the only NBA player to have reached out to her. And when he did, she was only six weeks into the job.
“It was supposed to be an hour meeting, it was two hours. He was really interested in hearing how we’re going to transform the league, what he was doing on youth and girls basketball. So this was real advocacy for our league,” Engelbert continued. “He wanted to help us invest, help advocate.”
Kobe also championed those who hoped to be a part of the league in the future by working with college teams likethe University of Connecticut and University of Oregon. “His impact was much broader than I certainly thought,” Engelbert admitted.
The WNBA commissioner revealed that the organization will be honoring Gianna during the upcoming draft, as well as her Mamba Sports Academy teammates, Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli, who were also victims of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash. “We’re still working on a lot of things to be mindful of the mourning period and their families, but we’re going to honor these three amazing young basketball players,” she said.
Additionally, Engelbert noted, the viral #GirlDad is a trend they want to honor and the league is planning something leading up to father’s day.
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