Kobe Bryant was more than one of the most famous and prestigious champions in the men’s basketball world, he also championed the growth of women’s basketball.
As four-time WNBA champion and Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird witnessed first-hand, Kobe’s support of women’s basketball went beyond his daughter Gianna’s aspirations or the future generations of ballers like New York Liberty first-overall pick Sabrina Ionescu.
Kobe wanted to grow the game. In Sports Uncovered: My Favorite Kobe Story, Bird recounted Kobe’s impact on the game of basketball and how he was a major proponent for the advancement of women's sports.
“I think (Kobe’s) WNBA impact is something that we might not see like the true -- we might not be the beneficiary until later,” Bird said. “I think he was starting a movement. And that movement was what he saw in his daughter.”
Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” shined when he was around his daughter, Gianna Bryant, also known as Gigi. The 13-year-old loved the game as much as Dad, and had desires to one day play UConn, where WNBA legend Bird got her start.
When Kobe founded the Mamba Sports Academy, he hoped that he could make a difference in the lives of young female athletes, including Gigi.
“What I think, this is just my personal take, is that Kobe, he saw that his daughter felt exactly the same way that he did, right,” Bird explained, “But as a boy growing up, you kinda had like a path. You knew you went to high school, and then obviously for him, he was good enough to make the jump. But there was opportunity after opportunity. It was, not an easy path, you have to be good and talented, but there was a path. And for women, it’s a little bumpier, we’re still fighting the fight. And I feel like he, through his daughter, was going to help us in that fight...
Kobe and Gigi may no longer be around to see the change they have created, but what they have fought for lives on. The father-daughter duo knew the women’s basketball world deserves more.
“I think now people are also jumping on board, you know, of course with the hashtag ‘GirlDad’ as well,” Bird said. “And so that’s what I mean by, it’s probably going to take some time. But his impact will be felt for years and years to come.”