“The end is not the story.”
In a quick video clip on End Well’s Take 10, BravoTV’s Andy Cohen talked about how people were remembered. He told us his friend Anderson Cooper shared that too often people were being remembered by how they ended — not how they lived.
As a result, I couldn’t help, but start writing about one story that will never receive too much attention.
Early this year, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant (regularly referred to as “Gigi” by family), perished in a helicopter crash. For almost the entire year, we remembered how they sadly concluded their lives in that tragic accident.
While I love that the end of her life struck the chords of many, stories like this show how the living was impacted instead of sharing more about how Gigi lived. This story barely talked about Gianna — I had hoped to learn more about this beautiful young teenager and the many stories she must have experienced. So, I dug harder.
- Her name was Gianna Maria Onore Bryant
- Her dad, Kobe Bryant, called her Mambacita
- “I try to watch as much film as I can,” Gigi said in an interview with Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS in 2019, when she and her dad attended the Las Vegas Aces’ WNBA opener. “More information, more inspiration.”
- “She had the right mentality, so confident, relentless, so mean and aggressive,” (Gabby) Williams said. “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.
- “When I went to work out with Kobe, most kids her age would be on the tablet,” (Jewell) Loyd said. “She stayed still and watched the entire time. Didn’t say anything. She was studying the game of basketball. If that didn’t say Kobe, I don’t know what does.”
I learned even more from an NBA player she was a fan of, Trae Young. However, all of these words were what others thought of Gigi.
Gabby Williams shared:
this is one of the most genuine people on the planet. thank you for what you’ve done for this game we love. for your kindness humility and words. i wish i could tell you how much every conversation meant to me, because you have no idea how much it did for my belief. and gigi… god my heart is fkn broken. my memories of you will always be of your smile and how genuinely you loved to be a student of this game. you never expected any handouts and were ready to fight for everything you wanted…. sending all my love and prayers to the bryant family
Since there weren’t as many words about Gigi, I dug even further.
USA Today allowed Jeff Zillgitt write an opinion telling us that Vanessa Bryant described Gigi as:
- A sweet, gentle soul who made sure she kissed her mom good night and good morning.
- A daddy’s girl who loved her mama, loved to bake – her chocolate chip cookies were the best, Vanessa said – and enjoyed baking shows on TV and watching Disney movies with her sisters, Natalia, Capri and Bianka.
- Vanessa described Gianna’s laugh as “infectious, pure and genuine.”
- And she was smart. She knew how to read, write and speak Mandarin Chinese and speak Spanish.
- She had a go-to outfit: black leggings, white T-shirt, white high-top Converse sneakers and a flannel shirt wrapped around her waist.
I felt like I learned more about “Gigi’s story.” But I still didn’t feel like I learned enough. So, I dug even harder.
And I finally found it. Mirin Fader shared the best set of stories about “Gigi.”
You remember how she loved peanut butter chocolate smoothies so much that she learned to make them for herself at home. You remember how she loved to make TikToks, how her dad/coach often told the players on her team, Team Mamba: “My house is a TikTok house! All these girls do is TikTok!”
You remember the time a teammate threw a pass to Gigi that soared over her head and rolled out of bounds. Gigi was upset. Not at her teammate but at herself. She expected herself to catch that ball, any ball. She was a leader, one who took responsibility even if she wasn’t at fault.
I love this story:
Gigi is five. Dad is working out in the weight room in their house. Whether he’s weight training or shooting a thousand jump shots on game day at the Equinox in Irvine, he has one rule: No interruptions. “Everyone knew: He did not need to be bothered,” says Ryan Badrtalei, an assistant men’s basketball coach at UC Irvine as well as Kobe’s friend and longtime trainer.
But on this day, Badrtalei notices the rule is broken.
Gigi and Natalia burst into the weight room, finding their father bench-pressing. They tell him something and give him kisses. The world stops. The hard parts of him melt. A big grin washes over him.
This will become a routine over the coming years: kisses between sets.
Another story about Gigi, I love:
Gigi is 11. She and her family are at the Final Four, hoping UConn will take it all. But the Huskies lose in the semifinals on a last-second shot in overtime by Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale.
Walking out of Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Gigi is crying her eyes out. And she’s angry. Her face is all twisted up. She gets into a car full of family and crosses her arms tightly across her chest.
Kobe sees her in the rearview. “You OK?” he asks.
“When I get to UConn,” she manages, between tears, “this is never happening! I promise you that!”
And lastly, one of the best stories of them all:
Gigi is two. Kobe has a workout on the track at UC Irvine with Badrtalei and decides to bring her along. She is his Velcro strip, after all—always snuggling up to his side, always reaching for his hand.
Kobe puts down his bag. When he looks up, Gigi is already in the blocks, her little feet positioned just right. She is thrilled, somehow knowing exactly where to go. She is staring straight ahead. She looks ready to compete, ready to fly down the track.
Kobe is beaming. Nobody taught his girl how to do that. She is a natural.
Too often, our stories are painted by others. The words penned by people who perceive how we acted, thought and lived are better than nothing. However, why not give everyone the ability to tell the story yourself?
This is why we created WheniLeave.com
You now have the chance to write your own story. Sign up today so you can do it for free.
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More incredible stories about Gianna Maria Onore Bryant
Gigi is 13. The Mambas have just finished practice at Newport Rec. Gigi has extra shots to get up. But first? She begins chasing her little sister, Bianka, around the court. This is one of her favorite things to do.
Around and around they go, faster and faster. Bianka is giggling so hard her tiny body almost topples over. Gigi is all teeth when she finally catches her, wrapping her arms around her little sister. She doesn’t want to let go.
Gigi is 11. The Mambas just won a game. Kobe is so excited that he sends Davis a video of one play, along with multiple strong-arm emojis, his favorite emoji.
“My man! Look!” Kobe writes. “They went to the pinch post, to the skip, to the center, to the three in the corner. Gigi hit a three in the corner!”
Davis laughs. He remembers when Kobe swore to him he was never going to coach. And then, as Gigi started asking him to get shots up with her, he started enjoying coaching. Then he became competitive about it. At one point, before his team was to play against the top eighth grade team, Cal Sparks, Kobe said, pacing the sidelines: “I want that smoke!”
“I don’t think Kobe ever lost the love of the game,” Davis says. “But I think Kobe was ready to step away from the game of basketball. And I think Gigi brought him back to it.”
Gigi is 11. She and Kobe arrive early to practice at Vanguard. The previous night, Kobe’s jersey was retired during halftime of the Warriors-Lakers game at Staples Center. “That was really cool,” Davis tells Kobe. “I can’t believe Allen Iverson came all the way out.”
“AI?” Kobe says. “Yeah that was great, but Bill Russell was there! And Magic! And Kareem! People forget, I grew up a big-time Lakers fan, and for me to have all those people there? Man, that was so awesome.”
Gigi is glowing. She stares at her father like he’s the only person on the planet. “Last night was so cool!” she says. “My dad was so happy! It was so cool to be there for my dad!”
Gigi is 13. She is sitting courtside to watch her friend, 14-year-old Brooklyn Shamblin of Cal Storm, a girl she looks up to, face off against Cal Sparks. Shamblin doesn’t have the best game and is disappointed with herself.
Gigi finds her afterward. “It’s OK,” she tells Shamblin. “You got the next one. You guys really played like a team!” Shamblin cracks a smile, the first one all day.
“Gigi had the kindest heart,” Shamblin says. “All she wanted was for every basketball player to succeed.”
Gigi is 12. The Mambas are practicing at Santiago High School. Jeff Gomez, Santiago High’s varsity boys’ assistant coach, walks over.
“You beat your dad in HORSE, huh?” Gomez asks Gigi.
She starts giggling: “All the time!”
Kobe laughs too: “Never.”
Gigi is 13. She and her dad walk out of a practice, him with a mesh bag filled with a half-dozen basketballs slung over his back, her with her backpack and a ball. She gets into his black Range Rover, riding shotgun, as always. She rolls down the tinted windows when she sees the rest of her teammates. “Bye!” she yells one last time, with a huge smile on her face, as if she wouldn’t be seeing them for a while. She’d see them the next day.
“The love [the girls] had for each other, it was amazing,” says Azzi Fudd, the top prospect in the 2021 class, who has worked out with the Mambas. “They were so excited to see each other. It was nonstop smiles.”
She was loved.
She was definitely that.