Vanessa Bryant speaks out after daughter Gigi Bryant honored with WNBA draft pick
13-year-old Gianna “Gigi” Bryant and two of her basketball teammates have been posthumously named honorary WNBA draft picks just months after the fatal helicopter crash that took their lives. Gigi, along with her teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Peyton Chester, would have likely joined the ranks of the WNBA in the 2024 class, and on April 17, 2020, the basketball association made it official with a bittersweet tribute to the young basketball players. To celebrate the honor, Gigi’s mother Vanessa Bryant shared a video message online, saying that joining the WNBA was her daughter’s “dream come true.”
Kobe Bryant meant a lot of things to a lot of people, but to the women of the WNBA, he was a champion and an ally. He coached Gigi’s youth basketball league and christened her with a name in his honor: He was “Mamba,” she “Mambacita.” Kobe spoke often how his daughter inherited his talent and enthusiasm for the sport and during the virtual WNBA telecast, Vanessa teared up describing what the honorary title would have meant to her talented daughter.
“She wanted to be one of the greatest athletes of all time just like her daddy,” Vanessa shared, adding that Gigi “worked tirelessly every day,” and that “Kobe and Gigi loved the WNBA.”
“Thank you for honoring my little girl,” she said.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert opened the event by honoring Kobe’s contribution to women’s sports and then spotlighted the three young girls: Gigi, Alyssa, and Peyton.
“These athletes represented the future of the WNBA. Players who were following their passions, acquiring knowledge of the game, exhibiting skills that were way beyond their years,” the commissioner stated. “They represented the next generation of stars in our league, maybe what might have been the Mambacita generation.”
Alyssa’s brother and sister — whose parents also died in the helicopter crash — honored their sister in a video message, saying “she loved the game of basketball and she worked extremely hard at her craft” and Peyton’s father honored his daughter’s legacy, sharing how she “exemplified the mamba mentality and was a fierce competitor. Her skill and determination to play in the WNBA is something I have no doubt she would have achieved.”
“While it brings us pain not to see their dreams come to fruition,” Engelbert added. “I’m grateful and proud to announce them tonight as honorary draft picks.”