UConn honored the late 13-year-old basketball player with an emotional video from her visit to the UConn locker room in March 2019. The teen hoped to play for the school one day.
UConn's head coach, Geno Auriemma, shared heartfelt words about Gigi and her father, Kobe. “I'm not here to talk basketball,” Auriemma admitted before explaining that he had too many thoughts running through his head. "I came here as a father."
"The thoughts that I had were obviously about all of the people that were on board," Auriemma said referencing the fatal helicopter crash that claimed the lives Gianna, Kobe and seven others.
"If you’re a father, a grandfather, you feel a different kind of emotion when there are children involved because this is always about the children," he added. "We’ve lived our lives, we have a little bit left, they’re just starting their lives."
Auriemma went on to share some of his conversations with Kobe about coaching Gigi, and how excited she was to visit UConn.
“I remember the very first game that she came to. She came in the locker room and here she is, the look on her face, the smile, the way her eyes just took everything in. How excited she was to be around, in her mind, royalty. It’s ironic, her father’s royalty and she’s excited to be around royalty who look like what she [wanted] to be."
During the visit, Kobe took a step back from the cameras, so that his daughter could soak in the moment.
"This was her moment," Auriemma recalled. "Her time to shine, her time to experience all the things that she experienced her whole life. He was being dad, not Kobe Bryant, and he was allowing Gig to be Gigi, not Kobe Bryant’s daughter.”
Geno Auriemma: "He said, 'I'm coaching my daughter's team.' I said, 'Oh, my god. That poor kid.' So when I watched highlights of her playing, on about the 3rd or 4th time she touched the ball, Gianna passed it when she was open. I thought, 'she's not listening to her father.'" pic.twitter.com/e4xuVwpMKa
The UConn Huskies honored the teen after her death last month by draping a Huskies jersey with the number 2 on the back (which represented the number that Gigi wore as a player on the Mamba Academy basketball team) of a chair positioned courtside during a game against the USA Women’s National Basketball Team. The jersey was adorned by white flowers.