The University of Connecticut is honoring Kobe Bryant's daughter Gianna after the 13-year-old died in the helicopter crash that killed her father on Sunday, sharing a tribute to the late teenager at their exhibition game on Monday night.
The team honored Gianna by displaying a Huskies jersey with the number 2 on a chair, a bouquet of flowers on the seat. Gianna had often worn number 2 while playing basketball at the Mamba Sports Academy, where she was coached by Bryant. Gianna, known as Gigi, was "hell-bent" on attending UConn, according to her dad.
"Mambacita is forever a Husky," the team wrote on Twitter, using Gianna's nickname. Mambacita was a play on Bryant's legendary alter-ego, the Black Mamba, and Bryant often referred to his daughter as Mambacita on social media.
ESPN shared that the game began with a 24-second moment of silence to honor Gianna and Bryant. During the course of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant wore two jerseys, numbers 8 and 24.
Screens in the arena also displayed messages reading, "In loving memory of Kobe & Gianna Bryant" and "Mamba forever." In addition, players decorated their shoes with tributes to Bryant as well as the names of the other seven victims of the crash, which included Gianna's basketball teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, Altobelli's parents John and Keri Altobelli, Chester's mom Sarah Chester, girls' basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
"Kobe and Gianna meant a lot to our program. Our thoughts are with the Bryant family," the team wrote on Twitter on Jan. 26. "Mamba Mentality will live on forever, but they are deeply missed."
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Bryant and Gianna had attended several of UConn's games together, and in 2017, Bryant took his daughter to the UConn locker room, where she got to meet some of the players as well as coach Geno Auriemma.
"Gigi started to show a tremendous interest in the game," Auriemma told ESPN before the game, recalling when Bryant and Gianna had attended a UConn-UCLA game in Los Angeles. "Our kids were fascinated by her, and obviously for a little girl to be in the company of those players, I can't put myself in her shoes, but it must have been an unbelievable thrill. ... This little girl who's looking up to these players like they're superhuman, and you've got my players looking to her dad like, 'Oh my god.' ...0comments
"He's a basketball savant, and he's been like that since he was 16 years old. I'm just really gonna miss him."
Photo Credit: Getty / Allen Berezovsky