The WNBA has honored Kobe Bryant‘s daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant along with two of her teammates as part of this year’s WNBA draft, which took place on Friday, April 17. The league posthumously selected Gianna and teammates from her youth basketball team, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, as honorary draft picks.
All three girls were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 in Calabasas, California. The crash also took the lives of Kobe and five others.
The draft was virtual this time because of COVID-19. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert inducted the girls into the league after speaking about Kobe’s passing.
“These athletes represent the future of the WNBA,” said Engelbert about the girls. “Players who were following their passions, acquiring knowledge of the game, exhibiting skills that were way beyond their years. They represented the next generation of stars in our league.”
The commissioner then called the girls’ names in alphabetical order and officially drafted them into the WNBA.
Afterward, messages from their families were played on video, and they talked about how much the girls loved basketball and how hard they worked at it.
Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother Vanessa Bryant then spoke about her daughter’s intense passion for hoops. Gianna had hoped to play one day for the WNBA.
“Thank you so much for honoring my Gigi, and selecting her to be an honorary draft pick this year,” said Vanessa. “It would have been a dream come true for her. She worked tirelessly every single day. She wanted to be one of the greatest athletes of all time just like her daddy. So thank you for honoring my little girl.”
Vanessa’s video marks the second time in one week that she spoke out about her daughter and husband.
On Monday, April 13, which marked the four-year anniversary of the last game Kobe played in the NBA, she posted a message about how tragic it is that he couldn’t enjoy his retirement for a long time.
“My husband worked his ass off for 20 years, gave it his all,” she wrote on Instagram. “All he wanted was to spend time with our girls and me to make up for lost time. He wanted to be there for every single milestone and special moment in our girls lives.
“He only got to enjoy 3 years and 9 months of retirement,” the post continued. “We had 2 more daughters, he won an Oscar, he opened Granity studios, he became a 5x best selling author and coached Gianna’s basketball team in that time. She worked hard and gave her all 7 days a week just like her daddy.”
“I wish I could go back to that morning, every day. I wish they had a normal local game on 1/26. Life truly isn’t fair. This is just senseless,” her message concluded.