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Gianna Bryant honored at UConn women's game: Her dream team is 'heartbroken'

Kobe Bryant's daughter was focused on playing basketball for the Huskies.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Drew Weisholtz

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team paid tribute to Gianna Bryant on Monday by draping a jersey over a chair adorned with a bouquet of flowers prior to its exhibition game against Team USA in Hartford, Connecticut.

Gianna and her father, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, California.

"Mambacita is forever a Husky," the team wrote on Twitter, alongside a photo of the jersey.

The team also posted a photo of Gianna with her father wearing UConn apparel at what appeared to be a Huskies game.

"Kobe and Gianna meant a lot to our program. Our thoughts are with the Bryant family. Mamba Mentality will live on forever, but they are deeply missed," the tweet read, a reference to Bryant's "Black Mamba" nickname.

There was also a 24-second moment of silence in honor of both Bryants, a nod to the number 24 that Kobe wore for part of his tenure with the Lakers.

"He and Gianna were tremendous supporters of UConn, friends to both teams, and their untimely deaths leave us heartbroken," the public address announcer told the crowd before the Huskies squared off against the national team.

The NBA icon went to multiple UConn games, the Hartford Courant reported in 2018. He was friendly with UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and Bryant had told people that his daughter wanted to play in college for the Huskies, which has long been one of the dominant teams in the sport.

In 2018, he spoke with Hall of Fame guard Reggie Miller, who encouraged Bryant to send Gianna to his alma mater, UCLA. “She is hellbent on UConn,” Bryant said.

“My daughter loves Gabby Williams, absolutely loves Gabby, loves (all of them),” he told the Hartford Courant in 2018 about the team's forward. “She watches their interviews, watches how they play and learns — not just in wins, but in tough losses, how they conduct themselves. It’s great, as a parent, to be able to see my daughter pull inspiration from them.”

"From what I saw, she was going to be heaps better than me," Williams, who now plays for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, told the Associated Press on Monday. "She had the right mentality, so confident, relentless, so mean and aggressive."

"And then (she would) walk off the court with the biggest, sweetest smile on her face. But my favorite part about her was just seeing how much she loved the game and loved to learn."

Williams also said the younger Bryant did not shy away from being like her dad.

"It’s intimidating to have to follow in those footsteps. But she really embraced it,” she said.

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