Gianna Bryant Honored By UConn Women’s Basketball Team: ‘Mambacita Is Forever A Husky’

A jersey to honor Gianna Bryant sits on the UConn bench before the USA Women's National Team Winter Tour 2020 game between the United States and the UConn Huskies at The XL Center on January 27, 2020 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

In the wake of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, along with seven others, details about the 13-year-old’s future plans emerged. Gigi had hoped to one day become a UConn Husky. The UConn women’s basketball team honored Gianna yesterday at the beginning of an exhibition game with USA Basketball at XL Center by making her a Husky forever.

Monday evening, the team shared a post on Twitter that showed a Huskies jersey with the number two on it laid over a chair on the bench. In the seat was a beautiful bouquet of white flowers tied with a blue ribbon. In the caption, the team revealed that “Mambacita” would forever be a Husky. The nickname was how Kobe often referred to his daughter, who had a fadeaway shot that many people felt looked similar to his. The late Los Angeles Lakers superstar was known as Black Mamba, and he used a shortened, feminized version when referring to Gigi and her basketball skills.

People loved the post and the gesture from the team that meant so much to Gianna. More than 212,000 users on Twitter hit the “like” button, and over 44,000 accounts had retweeted it at the time of this writing. Many mourners also posted replies honoring Gianna and Kobe.

Last March, Kobe took Gigi to watch the UConn Huskies in action on senior night ahead of her 13th birthday, and he shared a post on Instagram. In the tribute the proud father posted for Gianna’s 13th birthday, the little girl wore a UConn jacket in one of the photos. She felt strongly about the program and had big goals for her future in college.

According to an ESPN report, UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma spoke about the tragedy after his team lost to USA Basketball 79-65.

“You can’t react to something like that and say, ‘Well, this is what you do when this happens,'” Auriemma said. “You don’t know what to do or what to say.”

Auriemma also shared his memories of meeting Gianna when she visited UConn and checked out his program.

“You could just see the look in her eyes. She was so excited,” Auriemma said of Gigi’s excitement to meet the Huskies. “That’s what she aspired to be. When she came up here on campus, if she could have stayed, I think she would have stayed.”

The coach also remembered Kobe asking him what types of defensive drills to teach the Mambas, which is Gigi’s AAU basketball team that he coached for several years after his retirement.

The helicopter was flying to Mamba Academy for a game when it crashed in Calabasas, California, killing all nine passengers on board.