Gianna Bryant, 13, was going to carry on a basketball legacy

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She had next.

Her name was Gianna Maria Onore Bryant. The world, now and forever, knows her as Gigi. Her dad, Kobe Bryant, called her Mambacita. He was Mamba, of course, and she was going to be basketball’s female version of him. She was going to play at Connecticut and head to the WNBA. That was the plan.

Over the years, the world watched her grow from a babe in her father’s arms, to a small child trying to hold his Finals MVP trophy to his companion at WNBA, college and NBA games around the country, listening to her father break down play and watching every detail on the court, just as he always did.

“Gigi was really turning into a special player,” said Russ Davis, the women’s basketball coach at Vanguard University in Southern California and someone who became close with Bryant in recent years. “It’s hard to predict her future, but with the way she was improving and the way she understood the game, she was going to have a bright one.”

Gigi was 13. She was one of the nine people, her father also among them, on the helicopter that crashed Sunday morning into a hillside in Calabasas, California, as the group made its way to a basketball tournament where she was supposed to be playing. The helicopter burst into flames. All nine — including two of her teammates — died, officials said.

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant had four daughters. Gigi was the baller of the group. She was going to carry on the Bryant name in basketball. Few things in life made Bryant happier than that realization.

“I try to watch as much film as I can,” Gigi said in an interview with Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS in 2019, when she and her dad attended the Las Vegas Aces’ WNBA opener. “More information, more inspiration.”

She was even sounding like her dad.

The film study was working. So, too, was the five- or six- or seven-times-a-week workouts that Bryant would host for Gigi and her teammates on the team he coached. They ran the triangle offense, the one where Bryant had so much success with during his career. Grown men, professionals, the best players in the world, struggled with the triangle. Bryant had pre-teen girls figuring it out.

“He never yelled or anything,” Davis said. “They just listened to him.”

Earlier this month, Bryant posted a short video clip of Gigi in a game. The sequence: dribble-drive, pass to the corner, post up, wait for the ball to come back, catch, footwork, shoot the fadeaway.

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