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Kobe Bryant loved being a 'girl dad,' and this touching story explains why

"SportsCenter" anchor Elle Duncan shared a moving anecdote about how much Kobe Bryant enjoyed being the father of four girls.
/ Source: TODAY

NBA legend Kobe Bryant is being remembered as much for his love of his four daughters as for his extraordinary ability on the basketball court after he was one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles on Sunday.

Everyone from ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor Elle Duncan to "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon has shared stories about how much Bryant brightened when proclaiming himself a "girl dad."

One of the other victims in the crash was his second-oldest daughter, Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, 13, who was traveling with her father to a youth basketball tournament when the crash occurred. Bryant, 41, is survived by his wife, Vanessa, 37, and daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri.

Duncan shared a touching anecdote on "SportsCenter" Monday about the time she ran into Bryant at an ESPN event two years ago when she was eight months pregnant with her daughter. He high-fived her and told her, "Girls are the best!"

Bryant was a father of three girls at the time, and his two older daughters had often been seen in his postgame celebrations after winning championships with the Los Angeles Lakers during his career.

Image: FILE PHOTO: Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant kisses his daughter Gianna after they defeated the Orlando Magic to win the NBA basketball championship in Orlando
Kobe Bryant kisses a young Gianna after the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic to win the NBA title in 2009. Hans Deryk / Reuters

"I asked him for advice on raising girls, seeing as though he quite famously had three at the time, and he said just be grateful that you've been given that gift because girls are amazing," Duncan said.

"His third daughter, Bianka, was about a year-and-a-half old at the time, so I asked if he wanted more children, and he said that his wife, Vanessa, really wanted to try again for a boy but was sort of jokingly concerned that it would be another girl. And I was like, 'Four girls, are you joking? What would you think? How would you feel?' And without hesitation he said, 'I would have five more girls if I could. I'm a 'girl dad.'"

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Bryant particularly bonded with Gianna over their love of basketball. She had always dreamed of playing for the perennial women's basketball power at the University of Connecticut, and he had hoped she would carry on his legacy by playing professionally in the WNBA one day.

He bragged about her to Duncan during their short interaction.

"When it came to sports, he said that his oldest daughter was an accomplished volleyball player and that the youngest was a toddler, so TBD,'' Duncan said. "But that middle one, he said, that middle one was a monster. She's a beast. She's better than I was at her age. She's got it. That middle one, of course, was Gigi."

Duncan held back tears as she thought about Bryant's final moments with his daughter.

"When I reflect on this tragedy and that half an hour that I spent with Kobe Bryant two years ago, I suppose it's the only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most: being a dad,'' she said. "Being a 'girl dad.'"

Chrissy Teigen, who has a 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son with singer John Legend, reflected on Duncan's segment and how it reminded her of Legend's emotional reaction after their daughter, Luna, was born.

"The last time I remember John crying, aside from this week, was when Luna wrapped her little finger around his at the hospital when she was born,'' Teigen tweeted. "There really is something magical about girls and their dads. Thank you, @elleduncanESPN."

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Fallon, who is a father of two young girls, echoed Duncan's sentiments when he spoke about his interactions with Bryant over the years on TODAY Tuesday.

"He loved his family,'' Fallon said. "He was happy to be a 'girl dad.' And I'm a 'girl dad,' too. And he was funny. He had a great sense of humor.

"Watching his career and watching who he became, it's pretty amazing. I miss him."