Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli, and Payton Chester will be honorary selections in Friday’s WNBA Draft following the helicopter crash that claimed the three youth basketball players’ lives in January along the California coast.
Payton’s mother Sarah, Alyssa’s parents John and Keri, pilot Ara Zoboyan, youth basketball coach Christina Mauser, and Gianna’s father, NBA legend Kobe Byrant, were among the nine fatalities in the January 26 crash.
Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow and Gianna’s mother, revealed Friday afternoon that her daughter would be posthumously honored with her two friends.
‘Honorary Draft Picks: Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli, and Peyton (sic) Chester, class of 2024,’ Vanessa Bryant wrote on Instagram, separating their names with heart emojis.
Gianna, 13, Alyssa, 14, and Payton, 13, where teammates on a traveling youth basketball team organized by Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy and coached by the former Los Angeles Laker star and Mauser. Zoboyan was flying the girls and the others to an away game when the helicopter crashed near Calabasas.
Kobe and Vanessa Bryant pictured alongside their four daughters Natalia (now 17, bottom right), Bianka (now 3-years-old, bottom near right), Gianna (left, died at 13 in the helicopter crash that claimed Kobe’s life) and Capri (now nine months)
Sammy Forbath, best friend of Alyssa Altobelli, speaks at a memorial service honoring baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on February 10, 2020 in Anaheim, California. The Altobellis were traveling with former Lakers star Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and four others when the helicopter crashed Jan. 26 in foggy conditions, killing everyone on board.
The projected top pick of Friday’s draft, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, actually mentored Gianna after receiving some tutelage from Kobe himself.
Ionescu previously said she would be involved in whatever the WNBA did to honor the Bryants and the other victims.
The Ducks star spoke at the memorial service honoring Kobe and Gianna on February 24 before flying back to Oregon and making history by becoming the first player in Division I basketball history, male or female, to total at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.
Ionescu recorded 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in the No. 3 Ducks’ 74-66 win at No. 4 Stanford that night. Her ninth rebound, which came late in the third quarter, gave her 1,000 in her career, making her the inaugural member of the 2K-1K-1K club.
She said afterward on the ESPN broadcast that it was especially meaningful to accomplish the feat on that day because of Bryant, who had mentored Ionescu over the last year.
‘I mean that one was for him,’ said Ionescu, who took a chartered flight from Los Angeles after Bryant’s memorial to arrive about 90 minutes before tipoff at Maples Pavilion.
Ionescu speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on February 24. In her speech, Ionescu told the story of meeting Kobe and Gianna Bryant last year, when they sat courtside as the Ducks played USC in LA. She described her interactions with both in the months since, including on-court moves that Bryant helped teach her
Oregon basketball star Sabrina Ionescu (right) pictured alongside her mentor, Kobe Bryant (left), and her protege, Gianna Bryant (center), whom she called the ‘future’ of the sport
Bryant helped teach Ionescu several moves, she said: ‘He taught me his step-back, he told me that if I could bring that to my game it would be over for any defender trying to guard me’
‘To do it on 2/24/20 is huge. We had talked about it in the preseason. I can’t really put that into words. He’s looking down and really proud of me, and just really happy for my team.’
Sabrina Ionescu honored Kobe and Gigi Bryant on her Nikes before Monday’s game
Ionescu’s triple-double was her eighth of the season and the 26th of her career. She managed it despite an emotion-filled day and while battling illness, as she skipped pregame warmups after feeling nauseous.
‘Being able to speak (at the memorial) was such an honor for me,’ Ionescu said. ‘Being able to hear everyone speak. I tried to do everything I could to hold it together tonight, and my team helped me a lot doing that.’
This week, Ionescu was asked about playing for the New York Liberty, who own the first pick on Friday.
‘I’ve talked to their coach [Walt Hopkins] a little bit, and he’s been awesome,’ Ionescu said during a Zoom call earlier this week with the Associated Press. ‘Obviously, they have a new staff in place. I’m just excited if I get that opportunity. I think they have the right pieces in place, and the goals and the vision that coaching staff and the front office has for that team are bright.’
Pictured: Kobe Bryant (far left), Sabrina Ionescu (next to Kobe) and Gianna Bryant (No. 2)
Source: dailymail UK