Kobe Bryant memorial showcased relentless advocacy for women in sports

Kobe Bryant memorial showcased relentless advocacy for women in sports

LOS ANGELES -- I have always been Team Shaq. While always having the utmost respect for Kobe Bryant’s talent, drive and accomplishments, Shaquille O’Neal was who I sided with when I felt I had to choose between the legendary Los Angeles Lakers stars. 

My opinion changed Monday, nearly one month after Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif.

Upon hearing countless stories about Bryant’s support of his daughters during his "Celebration of Life" at Staples Center, I was introduced to a different side of the five-time NBA Champion.  

It's unfortunate that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it's gone. What was shared by several women Monday, including Bryant’s wife Vanessa, was how much of an advocate he was for his daughters as a "girl dad" and to women as a coach and mentor. 

Being a woman in a man's industry or sport is challenging, and the men who support us are invaluable. That’s what Bryant did by supporting his daughters in every way possible. Women don’t want special treatment or favoritism, just fair opportunities and inclusion. 

University of Oregon point guard Sabrina Ionescu might have given the best examples of how Bryant did this in her moving and emotional speech. The NCAA's all-time leader in career triple-doubles (25) detailed how Bryant spoke to her as he would have spoken to any aspiring player, regardless of their gender. 

“Wake up, grind, get better,” Ionescu recalled Bryant advising.

Ionescu continued, explaining how technical their discussions would be about her play on the court. Bryant was as relentless in his coaching as he was as a player.

Not just because he knew she could handle it, but because it would make her better. Bryant, most importantly, believed in Ionescu and wanted her to believe in herself just as much. 

He inspired her, telling the Oregon star that “[being] born different doesn’t mean being born behind."

Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka was Bryant's agent for two decades. He might have been the last person to communicate with Bryant, too, texting him moments before the crash. 

What was so important to Bryant on that fateful Sunday morning to prompt several texts? Assisting fellow helicopter passenger, John Altobelli’s surviving daughter Alexis in getting an internship with a baseball agent who was acquainted with Pelinka. 

“Kobe vouched for the girl’s character, intellect and work ethic,” Pelinka said. “He clearly wanted to champion a bright future for her.” 

[RELATED: How fatherhood, not career, made Kobe Bryant a man of all people]

No matter how big or how small his acts of support were, Bryant did everything he could to be “girl dad” and mentor to women in sports.

Honestly, for the Basketball Hall of Famer, that might be his most important accomplishment of all. 

Warriors' Juan Toscano-Anderson looks forward to guarding James Harden

Warriors' Juan Toscano-Anderson looks forward to guarding James Harden

James Harden scored 29 points on 16 field-goal attempts the last time the Warriors faced the Houston Rockets back on Feb. 20. Houston won that game 135-105, and it sounds like Golden State's Juan Toscano-Anderson was looking forward to the rematch.

With the NBA season indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Toscano-Anderson and the Warriors have some free time on their hands. Toscano-Anderson made use of it by holding a Q&A on Twitter on Saturday night, at which time he was asked which player -- whether teammate or opponent -- he was most looking forward to playing with or against when the season starts back up.

Toscano-Anderson provided multiple answers.

"Excited to get our whole team back to full strength," Toscano-Anderson replied. "I was very excited to guard James Harden."

Well, you've got to appreciate the fact that he's not afraid of a challenge. There might not be a tougher player to guard than Harden in the entire league, but then again, Toscano-Anderson didn't finally establish himself as an NBA player this season by taking the easy way out.

[RELATED: Toscano-Anderson reveals all-time Warriors starting five]

The Warriors and Rockets were scheduled to play each other for a fourth and final time this season in Houston on April 2. Obviously, that particular game won't take place on that day, but whether it is postponed or canceled, Toscano-Anderson surely will have more opportunities to try to make things harder on Harden.

Seven candidates for Warriors' massive Andre Iguodala trade exception


Seven candidates for Warriors' massive Andre Iguodala trade exception

The Warriors don't know if or when the current NBA season will resume, much less the next one. But whenever the 2020-21 season takes place, they'll likely have used several assets at their disposal with which to return to a level of legitimate contention.

But in terms of the Warriors' asset that likely will have the greatest determining impact on their success next season, the $17.2 million trade exception they received for sending Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies last summer stands apart from the rest.

Trade exceptions cannot be combined with others, so through the Iguodala trade exception, Golden State cannot acquire a player making more than $17.2 million (technically, it's $17,185,185.) However, trade exceptions can be split, so the Warriors could theoretically use the Iguodala trade exception to acquire multiple players, as long as their combined salaries don't exceed that amount.

While Golden State should absolutely be able to acquire a good player with that trade exception, the Dubs will have the added challenge of only having a tight window with which to use it. Once the league moratorium concludes at noon ET on July 6 (as currently scheduled), the Warriors will only have until the end of the following day to utilize the exception in a trade. They cannot use it prior to the moratorium, though in theory, they could agree to a trade at any point along the way.

Given the indefinite league stoppage due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it's possible that Golden State will be granted some kind of an extension to use the Iguodala trade exception, but there is no guarantee. Whenever it expires, however, the Warriors would be wise to use it on one of the following seven players prior to that point.