Sports

Gigi Bryant Was a Great Basketball Player

Gigi and Kobe Bryant sitting courtside and smiling. Kobe has his arm around Gigi.
Gianna “Gigi” Bryant and her father, Kobe, at the WNBA All-Star Game on July 27, 2019.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Gianna “Gigi” Bryant died on Sunday morning at the age of 13, one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash that also claimed her father, 41-year-old Kobe Bryant. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the helicopter was en route to a travel basketball game. Just two weeks ago, Kobe posted on Instagram about another trip he’d taken with the second oldest of his four daughters, that one to see a high school basketball game in Washington state.

“Before Gigi got into basketball, I hardly watched it,” Kobe said on a podcast earlier this month, “but now that’s she’s into basketball, we watch every night.” Father and daughter traveled all over the country to see games, going to Atlanta to catch Trae Young and the Hawks and to Storrs, Connecticut, to see the UConn women. In October 2018, Kobe told Reggie Miller that Gigi was “hellbent” on playing basketball at UConn.

That same month, in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kobe said that Gigi also had professional aspirations—and that she was confident she’d carry on her father’s on-court legacy.

“The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans will come up to me, and she’ll be standing next to me. And they’ll be like, ‘Man, you gotta have a boy. You and V gotta have a boy, man, have somebody carry on your tradition, the legacy.’ And she’s like, ‘Oy, I got this. You don’t need no boy for that. I got this.” And I’m like, ‘That’s right. Yes you do. You got this.’ ”

It’s devastating to watch videos of Gigi now, knowing she’ll never have a chance to become the person she wanted to become.

Here she is swishing a turnaround jumper on her 11th birthday in May 2017, wearing a Nike T-shirt with her father’s No. 24 on the back and “RISE WITH GIANNA” across the front.

A month later, Kobe posted a video of Gigi spinning through a pair of opponents for a layup. In the caption, he referred to her as “mambacita.”

Here’s a snippet of Kobe and Gigi playing one-on-one. Like a crafty veteran, she creates some space with her right arm.

Over the past year or so, Gigi started to draw attention from highlight purveyors like Ballislife and Slam. Anyone who watched those compilations because of her famous dad kept on watching because of the young player just starting to make her own name.

In this one-minute package, Gigi shows off her deep range, her touch close to the rim, and another one of those devastating spins.

If you want to see a whole lot more of Gigi in action, there’s a 10-plus-minute version of the clip above. And here, from Slam, is a long video that includes footage of both Gigi playing and Kobe coaching.

But my favorite video of Gigi Bryant is one that circulated earlier this month. In the span of about three seconds, she crosses up her defender, picks up her dribble with her back to basket, fakes over her right shoulder, spins to the baseline, and swishes a fadeaway jumper.

It’s a move that few players of any age could execute. Gigi Bryant, age 13, had already mastered it.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of Kobe Bryant’s death.

You can hear Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen discuss Kobe’s legacy on and off the court below, or click to read an excerpt from that conversation.