Months before his tragic death, NBA star Kobe Bryant was seen sporting an orange WNBA sweater, and his fashion choice has drawn praise from the league's commissioner. Yahoo Sports reports that WNBA head Cathy Engelbert recently commented on the photo, saying, "On December 29th, one of the last pictures with Gigi was Kobe wearing the orange WNBA sweatshirt we gave him." She continued, "I never thought he would wear it, by the way," then adding, "There he was court-side at a Lakers game. Thank goodness we have that picture to remember his advocacy by."
Sadly, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash in January. The crash also claimed the lives of seven other individuals, including some of Gianna's Mamba Sports Academy basketball teammates.
In an interview with PEOPLE, Engelbert said that the deaths of Bryant and Gianna "devastated" her, and that the WNBA has plans to honor the fallen young athletes.
"Our next big tentpole for the WNBA is our draft in April, so we’ll clearly be honoring those three young 13-year-old basketball players — the future of our game," she revealed. Going on to speak about Bryant's support of the WNBA, Engelbert said, "We’re devastated over that loss and Kobe was a huge advocate for the WNBA."
"I’ve been telling people that he’s the only NBA player that reached out and came to see me at the WNBA offices since I started as the commissioner six months ago," she added. "The first thing he said to me was, 'Cathy, I spent four hours every day on girls sports and I love it.'"
"We talked for two hours about his commitment to the WNBA, the women, the players and obviously his commitment to his team that he was coaching," Engelbert continued. "[It’s] just really a loss and a loss of a big advocate."
Bryant's love of creating space for girls to be taken more seriously in sports was long documented, with a source telling PEOPLE after he passed that he really made an effort to be involved with his daughters' pursuit of athletics.0comments
"His focus on kids’ books and reaching out to kids about basketball was definitely because of his daughters and more specifically Gigi," the source shared. "He didn’t obviously have boys, but he saw that you didn’t have to be a boy or a girl for him to still have them be a part of the sport and love it."
Bryant was 41 years old at the time of his death. The crash has since been ruled an accident.