The WNBA paid tribute to Gianna “GiGi” Bryant in a big way during the organization’s annual draft Friday by making her and fellow Mamba Academy teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester the first three honorary 2020 draft picks.
“While it brings us pain not to see their dreams come to fruition, I’m grateful and proud to announce them tonight as honorary draft picks,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said during the Friday ceremony which was entirely virtual this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Bryant, Altobelli and Chester all had aspirations to play in the WNBA before their tragic deaths in a helicopter crash which took the lives of six others including NBA icon Kobe Bryant. Family members of the crash victims recorded thank you speeches for the honor including Vanessa Bryant who said her thank yous through tears while wearing a WNBA sweatshirt that belonged to her husband.
“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, thank you for honoring my little girl,” Bryant said adding that “Kobe and GiGi loved the WNBA. This is his sweatshirt. Thank you. I want to congratulate all of this year’s draft picks. So congratulations, work hard. Never settle. Use that Mamba Mentality.”
This is the second time Gianna has been given an honorary induction by a women’s basketball organization. In January, shortly after the 13-year-old’s death, the University of Connecticut made her an honorary member of their women’s basketball team the Huskies—a team Kobe said in 2018 that she was “hellbent” on being a part of.
It’s been just under three months since the tragic and untimely deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and many fans and family members are still mourning their losses as well as that of the others who died that day. It warms the heart to see that they continue to be memorialized.