The 2020 WNBA Draft was Friday night, and the league paid tribute to the late Kobe and Gianna Bryant throughout the evening.
First, the league made Gianna — and her two teammates also lost in that tragic January helicopter crash, Payton Chester, and Alyssa Altobelli — honorary draft picks:
Gianna’s mother and Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, posted a photo on Instagram of Gianna’s last name and number on a WNBA jersey (they didn’t use a specific team’s colors, it was just WNBA colors) to commemorate the occasion:
She also thanked the league for choosing Gianna as an honorary draft pick in a video shown during the broadcast, saying the moment would have been “a dream come true” for her 13-year-old daughter, who “worked tirelessly every day” to become the best basketball player she could be:
Vanessa Bryant thanks the WNBA for making Gianna an honorary draft pick and sends a message to WNBA draftees pic.twitter.com/PAh4Vrg2KQ— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 17, 2020
The WNBA also announced the creation of the “Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award,” a new honor that “will recognize an individual or group who has made significant contributions to the visibility, perception and advancement of women’s and girls’ basketball at all levels.”
The league provided full details on the new honor in a press release:
The new annual award will honor the late Kobe Bryant, a staunch supporter of the WNBA and women’s basketball, and his daughter Gianna (also known as Gigi), who loved the game of basketball and aspired to reach the pinnacle of the sport like her father.
“Kobe was an incredible champion of women’s basketball and Gianna shared his passion and dedication to our game,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “The Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award will honor their legacy and reflect Kobe’s commitment to mentoring the next generation of players, promoting the game and giving back to the community.”
The recipient of the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award will be a tireless advocate for women’s basketball and foster the highest levels of leadership. The award will honor advocates and influencers who use their time, talent and platform to raise awareness for the game.
The WNBA and the Bryant family will announce the inaugural recipient during NBA All-Star 2021 in Indianapolis. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, will play a large role in determining the honoree and present the award each year at NBA All-Star.
The Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award will include a charitable component that highlights Kobe’s legacy as a coach and mentor and Gigi’s inspirational, relentless commitment to playing at the highest levels of the game. Additional details will be announced at a later date.
All in all, it was just a really cool couple of ways to honor Kobe and Gianna, who were huge fans of the WNBA. Good on the league for making it happen.