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WNBA star Diana Taurasi pays tribute to Kobe Bryant by wearing No. 8 jersey

Late NBA great Kobe Bryant lived on in memorials marking his birthday over the weekend, including an in-game tribute from Diana Taurasi.
The WNBA’s Diana Taurasi marked Kobe Bryant’s birthday by wearing his number and by playing her best.
The WNBA’s Diana Taurasi marked Kobe Bryant’s birthday by wearing his number and by playing her best.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Sunday marked what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 42nd birthday, and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi found the perfect way to mark the occasion.

When she hit the court in Sunday’s WNBA face-off against the Washington Mystics, she did so with the late legend’s name and number emblazoned across her back.

Diana Taurasi honors Kobe Bryant with No. 8 jersey
Diana Taurasi wore No. 8 to honor Kobe Bryant's birthday during the game against the Washington Mystics.Stephen Gosling / NBAE via Getty Images

Taurasi didn’t just honor the Hall of Famer with her No.8/”Bryant” jersey, she also paid her respects by playing a remarkable game and scoring a season-high 34 points, helping her team eke out a win for the night.

“I was really hesitant to wear the jersey today,” the 38-year-old told reporters at the Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. “I was in my room, and I kept looking at it and looking at it. When you put his jersey on, you just want to make sure you honor it the right way. That’s all I was thinking about the whole game. What would Kobe do today? I know Kobe would have fought his ass off every minute.”

So that’s just what she did.

“This is for him and his family,” Taurasi added.

No. 8 was the first of two numbers Bryant wore during his time with the L.A. Lakers. The second was, of course, No. 24, a number he selected based on his old high school jersey.

The WNBA celebrated Bryant’s career all weekend long, with his jerseys hanging courtside. After all, the NBA great was a tremendous proponent of women’s basketball and supported daughter Gianna’s passion for the game.

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant
Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant at a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks at the Staples Center on Nov. 17, 2019Allen Berezovsky / Getty Images

Gianna, 13, died alongside her father in the helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of seven others in January.

“It’s a bittersweet moment. We celebrate him but still mourn him,” Taurasi added. “We mourn him, Gigi, everyone on that helicopter. We lost a lot that day.”

Taurasi has long been a fan of Bryant’s and when she spoke at the memorial honoring his life earlier this year, she explained how he inspired her in the game.

"I was a lanky, awkward freshman in high school, obsessively shooting night after night in my driveway," she said at the time. "On the nights the Lakers played, I wouldn’t miss a second of the game. Every timeout, every commercial, I’d run to the front yard to imitate my favorite Laker, Kobe."