Inside Kobe Bryant's beautiful relationship with his daughter Gianna

On Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others were headed to Thousand Oaks, Calif. when their helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, Calif., killing everyone on board. The group was on its way to a basketball tournament at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy at the time of the tragic crash. Gianna was reportedly set to play in the tournament while Bryant was slated to coach his daughter's team, per CNN.

Attending a tournament together wasn't something that was out of the ordinary for Bryant and Gianna. Both had a true passion for the game of basketball, which is why they could often be found chatting courtside at a game or out on the court honing their skills. In the days following his death, ESPN anchor Elle Duncan praised Bryant for being a proud "girl dad." Duncan said that, in light of the tragedy, the only "small source of comfort" for her was knowing Bryant "died doing what he loved the most, being a dad, being a girl dad." 

While Bryant undoubtedly had a special relationship with all four of his daughters, there was something especially beautiful about his relationship with Gianna.

Kobe Bryant and Gianna bonded over basketball

In the wake of the devastating helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, photos and videos of the two have been circulating on social media non-stop.

Perhaps one of the most shared moments is a video that went viral in December 2019, showing Kobe and Gianna sitting courtside at a New York Nets game. In the video, the NBA legend is seemingly talking his daughter through a play that happened on the court. In honor of Kobe and Gianna, the Nets kept those same courtside seats empty during their game against the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 29, 2020.

The pair didn't just share a love of watching basketball, they were both fierce competitors as well. In fact, ESPN anchor Elle Duncan remembered the Lakers legend referring to his daughter as being a "monster" on the court. "She's a beast," he told the news anchor. "She's better than I was at her age. She's got it."

The aspiring basketball star had everything it took to follow in her famous father's footsteps — and it wasn't just her dad who thought so. "Gigi was really turning into a special player," Russ Davis, the women's basketball coach at Vanguard University, told the Associated Press. "It's hard to predict her future, but with the way she was improving and the way she understood the game, she was going to have a bright one."

Bryant saw the potential in his daughter from day one, which is why he was more than happy to pass the torch.

Gianna was going to carry on Kobe Bryant's legacy

Based on a resurfaced 2018 interview with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, it's clear that Kobe Bryant was confident that Gianna would carry on his legacy. In the interview, the Black Mamba revealed how he knew "for sure" that his little Mambacita wanted to pursue basketball as a career. "The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans come up to me, and she'll be standing next to me, and they'll be like, 'You gotta have a boy, you and [wife Vanessa] gotta have a boy, somebody else to carry on the tradition, the legacy,'" Bryant said.

He continued, "She's like, 'Oh, I got this. You don't need a boy for that. I got this.' I'm like, 'That's right, yes you do. You got this." The NBA legend clearly had his daughter's back.

While her ultimate goal was to play for the WNBA, Gianna dreamed of doing a stint at the University of Connecticut as part of the famed women's basketball team. In fact, in October 2018, Bryant told NBA legend Reggie Miller that Gigi was "hellbent on UConn."

On Jan. 27, 2020, ahead of an exhibition game, the UConn Huskies honored Gianna's memory by draping a "No. 2 jersey — the digit Gigi wore — over one of their bench seats," per CNN. On the seat sat a bouquet of flowers tied with blue and white ribbons. The Huskies tweeted a photo of the tribute, writing: "Mambacita is forever a Husky."

Gianna pushed Kobe Bryant to follow his dreams

While Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest basketball players of all-time and dropped countless words of wisdom over the course of his career, even the NBA all-star needed a pep talk from time to time. 

When Bryant retired from basketball in 2016, he made it his mission to inspire the next generation. In 2017, Bryant worked on a project that he hoped would do just that. The former Laker took his retirement poem,"Dear Basketball," and transformed it into an animated short. "I love storytelling and writing and producing, and working with other young talent to bring stories to life to either inform or inspire or challenge the next generation," Bryant said, via Deadline. "I figured this project would let me create something that would let the next generation look at and process and interpret how they see fit."

In 2018, Bryant won an Academy Award for best animated short. After his big win, he admitted that if it hadn't been for his Mambacita, he might never have given the project a shot in the first place. "My little 11-year-old Gianna goes, 'Well Dad, you always tell us to go after our dreams so — man up.' She's 11. Man up. So I had to man up and go for it," he said (via ABC7.)

It seems like whether they were on or off the court, Bryant and Gianna were always pushing each other to be the best they could be.

Kobe Bryant and Gianna spent their final day together

Just one day before the fatal helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant, the pair was on the basketball court, bonding over a love of the game.

On Jan. 25, 2020, Bryant and Gianna were at Mamba Sports Academy, where the retired basketball star coached his daughter's team in the "first two games of the Mamba Cup Series," per the New York Post. "He had a clipboard, he was drawing up plays and talking to [the players]," an onlooker told the Post. "He was a little bit animated at times, but it was in a very positive way." Another witness told the outlet that Bryant "had really good energy with his daughter," and that he "took a few extra timeouts to explain things to the kids." Up to the very end, Bryant was passionate about encouraging the next generation.

Even though the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant were tragically cut short, they'll forever be remembered in the hearts of their loved ones as a dynamic father-daughter duo. As Vanessa Bryant put it: "There is no #24 without #2."