The Oregon Ducks women's basketball team entered Friday night's game against Washington State with the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 women's basketball tournament. However, Arizona's upset victory over Stanford gave Oregon the conference title outright. The Ducks celebrated by paying tribute to Kobe Bryant.
Oregon honoring the late Kobe Bryant following tonight’s conference title clinching win. pic.twitter.com/oiTZJFonhy— Erik Skopil (@Erik_Skopil) February 29, 2020
Following the victory, the members of the Ducks basketball team held a brief ceremony in remembrance of Bryant. Star player Sabrina Ionescu gave a speech, and then they cut down the net. Photos of the evening showed the attendees in the crowd holding up their phones to form a modern-era candlelight vigil.
Ionescu also attended the celebration of life memorial for Bryant and the other victims on Monday. She delivered a speech at Staples Center before flying to the Bay Area for a game against Stanford. It was during this time on stage that Ionescu explained how she first met Bryant and what both he and Gianna meant to her.
"Growing up, I only knew one way to play the game of basketball: fierce, with obsessive focus. I was unapologetically competitive," Ionescu said during the celebration of life. "I wanted to be the best. I loved the work, even when it was hard, especially if it was hard. I knew I was different, that my drive was different. I grew up watching Kobe Bryant, game after game, ring after ring, living his greatness without apology.
"I wanted to be just like him, to love every part of the competition, to be the first to show up and the last to leave. To love the grind. To be your best when you don't feel your best and make other people around you the best version of themselves. And to wake up and do it again the next day."
Ionescu was first introduced to Bryant and his daughter following a game against USC in 2019. They were in attendance and sat courtside, which stunned the Oregon Ducks star. They then headed to the locker room for a postgame celebration and to provide some advice.
"Kobe, Gigi and her teammates came into the locker room after the game. He congratulated us on the win that day and our season up to that point, but said, and I'll never forget, 'Don't shoot yourselves in the foot,'" Ionescu continued. "He meant don't settle, to keep grinding, control what you can. The national championship wasn't far, and our goal was to win it all."
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