The NBA shared the stage with the WNBA this weekend in Chicago for All-Star Weekend.
It’s an Olympic year and Team USA is the six-time defending champion, chances are good they’ll add a seventh in Tokyo. But right now what’s on their minds is a loss the entire basketball world is continuing to feel, particularly now.
Following an open practice at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena a couple of the players reflected on the legacy of Kobe Bryant and the promise of his daughter Gigi.
Kobe was a champion of the women’s game at all levels. He and daughter Gigi would often be seen courtside at high school, college, and professional games. Kobe was a true master craftsman, and that love of learning the game was apparent in Gigi.
Everyone remembers the viral clip from last December when the two were in Brooklyn, New York watching the Nets play the Hawks. A proud dad was teaching his eager daughter.
The majority of the fans on hand Saturday (February 15) to watch the women’s team practice were young girls, and that mattered to national team member Nneka Ogwumike, who plays forward for the L.A. Sparks.
“Representation matters, and we are always about that,” Ogwumike told BET.com. “Being an advocate for women’s sports and women’s empowerment is in right now, and we want it to stay in. We’ve been about that life for a while.”
Kobe was also about that life, as Gigi was the heir to his basketball legacy. Kobe famously recalled a story where a fan told him he needed to have a son to carry on his legacy, and Gigi said, “you don’t need a son, I got this.”
“We saw glimpses of her skillset,” Ogwumike continued. “Her aura and maturity were so impressive. She was ready, more than ready, to fill her father’s footsteps. It was really exciting to see what could have been.”
Gigi was just 13 years old at the time of her death, and the women’s basketball community, many of its members who had relationships with both, felt this tragedy so deeply and personally.
“Anyone who knew Kobe, knew whatever he said he meant,” Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi told BET.com. “The passion that he and Gigi shared for the game was so great. So it was a natural progression for him to show love to basketball players at all levels and that’s what set him apart.”
Taurasi believes Gigi would have been a star.
“Gigi was doing things that I couldn’t do at 25,” Taurasi said. “She was getting tootelage from the best and you could tell her appetite for the game was just getting started, you could see it.”