‘Forever a Husky’: UConn Huskies honor Gianna Bryant at exhibition game


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, died tragically Sunday in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles. At an exhibition game against Team USA on Monday, the UConn huskies honored Gianna, who had dreamed of being a Husky one day.

RELATED: Former, current UConn Huskies, coaches remember Kobe Bryant, daughter Gigi

Gianna, (Gigi), was only 13 when she passed away. She had inherited her love of basketball from her father, a legend in the game.

She was an avid player. In fact, she and Bryant were on their way to one of her team’s games when the chopper in which they were riding crashed.

They were both known to be huge WNBA and UConn fans, and were frequently spotted attending games. As recently as last year, Gigi and Bryant were seen in the front row at a Uconn women’s basketball game right here in Connecticut.

“Gigi was really turning into a special player,” said Russ Davis, the women’s basketball coach at Vanguard University in Southern California told the Associated Press. She is someone who became close with Bryant in recent years. “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.”

WATCH: Geno Auriemma reflects on the loss of Kobe, Gianna

According to the Associated Press, Bryant called his daughter “Mambacita” and she called him “Mamba.” “She was going to be basketball’s female version of him. She was going to play at Connecticut and head to the WNBA. That was the plan.”

RELATED: Gianna Bryant, 13, was going to carry on a basketball legacy

At the exhibition game against Team USA, the UConn women’s team honored Gigi with a jersey, tweeting, “Mambacita is forever a Husky.”

In a press conference post-game Monday, coach Geno Auriemma explained how much it meant to Gigi to come to the UConn games, to watch a team she aspired to be a part of:

“The first time that they were at a game, you know the old saying, she was like a little kid looking up at our players, you know. You could just see the look in her eyes, she was so excited.

Now imagine the absurdity of that; your father is Kobe Bryant and the most excited you’d been in a long time is being around college women’s basketball players. But that’s what it meant to her, that was what she aspired to be.”

Geno Auriemma, UConn Women’s basketball coach

The team tweeted their sorrow for the loss of the pair Sunday, saying “Kobe and Gianna meant a lot to our program. Our thoughts are with the Bryant family. Mamba will live on forever, but they are deeply missed.”

RELATED: Pilot of Bryant helicopter tried to avoid heavy fog

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