Gianna Bryant and teammates killed in crash selected as honorary WNBA draft picks

The teens had dreamed of one day playing for the professional league.
Atlanta Hawks vs Brooklyn Nets
The late Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi.Paul Bereswill / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Gianna "Gigi" Bryant hoped to one day play for the WNBA.

Even though her life was tragically cut short, the league honored that goal posthumously by selecting her and her two teammates killed in a helicopter crash as honorary picks in the WNBA draft on Friday.

Gianna, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester were honored at the beginning of the virtual draft.

“These athletes represent the future of the WNBA,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a tribute. “They represented the next generation of stars in our league, maybe what might have been called the ‘Mambacita Generation.’”

The families of each player submitted a recorded message to play after the announcement, thanking the league for honoring the fallen players.

In her video, Vanessa Bryant wore her late husband’s orange WNBA sweatshirt.

“It would’ve been a dream come true for (Gigi),” she said. “ She worked tirelessly every single day, she wanted to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, just like her daddy. So thank you for honoring my little girl.”

She added both Kobe and Gigi had been huge WNBA supporters and congratulated this year’s draft picks.

“Work hard, never settle,” she advised them. “Use that ‘mamba mentality.’”

Vanessa Bryant has previously talked about Gigi’s love of the sport of basketball and dream of playing for the WNBA.

“Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA,” she said at the February memorial for Gigi and Kobe. “She would have made a huge difference. She would have made a huge difference for women's basketball. Gigi was motivated to change the way everyone viewed women in sports."

The WNBA also announced an award in their honor on Friday.

The Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award will recognize an individual or group who has made significant contributions to the visibility, perception and advancement of women’s and girls’ basketball at all levels.

“Kobe was an incredible champion of women’s basketball and Gianna shared his passion and dedication to our game,” Engelbert said in a statement. “The Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award will honor their legacy and reflect Kobe’s commitment to mentoring the next generation of players, promoting the game and giving back to the community.”