Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, perished in a helicopter crash in January 2020, but the basketball world continues to grapple with such a monumental loss 16 months later.
On Sunday, ahead of the Brooklyn Nets’ game against the Bucks in Milwaukee, Kyrie Irving had a touching tribute for the Lakers legend’s daughter that he shared with the rest of his Nets teammates.
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Kyrie Honors Gigi Bryant’s Legacy
Saturday would have been Gianna Bryant’s 15th birthday. Her mother and Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, took to Instagram to caption a photo of herself and Gigi when she was younger.
“Dear Gianna, Happy 15th Birthday!” Bryant wrote alongside a heart and kiss emoji. “I love you! I miss you everyday! I wish you were here with us. There are no words to express how much I miss you. I love you Mamacita!”
On Sunday, Kyrie honored Gigi in his own way, gifting “Mambacita” hoodies to all of his Nets teammate, per the team’s Twitter account.
Kobe’s nickname was The Black Mamba.
All of the proceeds of the apparel collection will support the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, the Nets tweeted. The foundation was founded in loving memory of Gianna.
Gigi Forever 🖤🤍@KyrieIrving gifted Mambacita hoodies for the whole squad. 100% of the proceeds of the collection will support the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, founded in loving memory of Gianna Bryant 🙏 #PlayGigisWay pic.twitter.com/GLDBGaO0NA
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) May 2, 2021
The Nets also tweeted out photos of Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green showing up to work at Fiserv Forum in their “Mambacita” hoodies.
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Kobe Had Huge Impact on Kyrie
Irving, like the rest of the basketball world, was devastated by the death of Bryant on January 20, 2020.
“It’s an open wound,” the Brooklyn Nets star said a few days later, via Yahoo. “I’m not the only one that’s hurting. I don’t wanna make this about me and our relationship because we all shared something really, really strong with him. There’s a bond whether watching him or studying him. We all shared something.”
Irving deemed Bryant’s impact on the game so significant that he has suggested a change to the NBA logo that features Bryant.
“Gotta happen, idc what anyone says,” Irving captioned his photo. “BLACK KINGS BUILT THE LEAGUE.”
Currently, Jerry West, a Hall of Famer and Lakers legend who is white, serves as the inspiration for the NBA logo’s silhouette.
Irving made his seventh All-Star Game appearance earlier this year. The 28-year-old is averaging 26.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists this season. He continues to credit the late Bryant for inspiring him to reach his own greatness.
“In some ancient texts it says when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” Irving said shortly after Bryant’s death, via Yahoo. “I had that type of mentorship relationship with him. I could ask him anything, no matter how nervous or how fearful I was. He was easy to approach with those type of questions with what goes on in a day-in and day-out basis on chasing something that’s bigger than yourself.
“When you’re trying to leave a legacy or a mark on the game, there will come a lot of sacrifices and a lot of hate, a lot of love and a lot of balance you must create in your life … He left a lot of teachings, a lot of bread crumbs, as I call them. And I just followed every single one of them. That probably pays a lot of focus into the person I am today. Just listening, seeing what he was creating. Seeing his daughter, Gigi, and opening doors in women’s sports. We talked about it all the time. I wanted that same structure.”
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