Kobe Bryant And Gianna Shared A Special Bond
Grief works in stages.
Shock and denial came first after Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died alongside seven other people in a helicopter crash in Calabasas on Sunday morning.
Then the pain hit.
Videos and images of Bryant and his daughter that were once endearing are now haunting. The world lost a 41-year-old man who transcended the game of basketball, becoming a corporeal representation for hard work and greatness. And the world lost a girl, who had just begun her life.
And through them, gone was something even more powerful -- an obvious and palpable love between a father and his daughter.
Bryant's instagram is filled with images of his four daughters, including Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months. Gianna and him shared a special bond over basketball.
There's a photo of her shooting under the basket while wearing high-heeled booties, accompanied by the words "#HoopsAndHeels #StealsAndStilettos." There's a video of her making a fadeaway jumper, which Bryant wrote looked "familiar."
There's a photo of Bryant alongside Gianna and her friends on a basketball court, with the girls donning shirts that say "This is my kitchen." There's a photo of Gianna sitting on Bryant's lap with her arms wrapped around his shoulders and the sides of their faces pressed together, captioned, "My Gigi."
Their love was so obvious.
In an interview with Barstool Sports from 2018, Bryant explained that he started flying on helicopters in the first place so he could spend more time with his girls.
"I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time," Bryant said. "And so that's when I looked into helicopters...My wife was like, 'Listen, I can pick [the kids] up.' I'm like, 'No, no, no, I want to do that,' because, like, you have road trips and times where you don't see your kids, you know. So every chance I get to see them and spend time with them, even if it's 20 minutes in a car, like, I want that."
After retiring from a 20-season NBA career with the Lakers in 2016, in which he won five-NBA championships, one MVP award in 2008 and two Finals MVPs, Bryant had even more time to spend with his family, something he deeply cherished.
In the past four years, Bryant hardly went to any NBA games. It wasn't because it was painful or nostalgic.
It was because he preferred spending time with his girls.
"I’d rather be giving B.B. a shower and sing Barney songs to her," Bryant told the Los Angeles Times. "I played 20 years and I missed those moments before."
When he did go to NBA games, it was with Gianna. He took her to see one of her favorite players, Atlanta's Trae Young, a few times. There's a video of them sitting courtside in Brooklyn on Dec. 21 as he explains something to her, and she makes one of his signature faces of concentration, lips pursed and all. She then responds and lovingly smiles at her father.
In a an interview with Jimmy Kimmel in 2018, Bryant said that Gianna wants to be in the WNBA.
"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, 'You gotta have a boy, you and [Vanessa] gotta have a boy, man, to have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy," Bryant told Kimmel. "And [Gianna] will be like ‘Oy, I got this. We don’t need a boy for that. I got this.'”
Through Gianna, Bryant was humanized. He was just a father who adored his daughter and wanted to do everything in his power to help her be great.
He coached her. He spent time with her. He adored her.
There's a video of them fooling around playing barefoot basketball on Twitter, in which he crowds her, and she shoulders him away and then swishes a jumper.
It's just a pure moment of love between a father and a daughter.
For a man who accomplished so much, that love is perhaps his greatest legacy.