Varsity Basketball Star Hailey Van Lith Shares Photos With Kobe Bryant and Gianna: 'Thank You for Changing My Life'

In the years after his retirement in 2016, Kobe Bryant had begun coaching his 13-year-old daughter Gianna's basketball team, passing along his knowledge of the game and using his platform to elevate the platform of women's basketball. Both Bryant and Gianna died in a helicopter crash on Sunday that claimed the lives of seven others, and the pair has been remembered in a flood of tributes in the days since.

After the crash, high school basketball player Hailey Van Lith, who was being mentored by Bryant, reflected on the loss on Instagram with a video of herself talking to Bryant and Gianna at one of her own games as well as photos of herself with them.

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"I am at a loss for words. I can only be thankful God gave me time to build a friendship and mentorship with both of you," she wrote. "Never have I seen a passion for life burn so bright in two individuals. Thank you for changing my life. Conversations I shared with you both touched my heart and I will cherish them forever. Until I see you again, I love y'all and Rest In Peace."

Van Lith is a senior at Cashmere High School in Washington and signed with University of Louisville in November, making her the highest-ranked prospect to ever sign with the school in either the men or women's basketball programs. Last summer, she received a call from a member of Bryant's team telling her the NBA star wanted to meet with her.

"I couldn't believe it, that he actually knew who I was and thought I was a good player," Van Lith told the Los Angeles Times. "When I later asked him, 'Why me?' he basically said the way I play, my work ethic and mentality on the court, reminded him of himself, and it compelled him to reach out to me."

Van Lith developed a bond with both Bryant and Gianna, and just weeks before their deaths, the father and daughter went to Cashmere to watch Van Lith play and took photos together after the game.

"We took a trip to #cashmere today to watch [Hayley] hoop and she and her teammates put on a show!" Bryant wrote on Instagram. "Can't wait to watch her play next season [University of Louisville Women's Basketball]."

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Photo Credit: Getty / Andrew D. Bernstein