Kobe Bryant always made certain that parenting came before sports.
In a November interview with CBS This Morning, just over two months before his tragic death at 41 in a helicopter crash that also killed his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, Bryant explained the way he balanced being a dad and basketball coach.
The late NBA star — who previously expressed his joy in being a “girl dad” to his four daughters (he is survived by wife Vanessa, 37, and their three daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months) — said the tricky part about coaching his young athlete was “making sure she knows that I love her whether she plays well or plays like crap.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he said at the time of any shortcomings on the court. “You know, you’re my daughter before you’re a basketball player, and it’s important that she knows that that’s how I feel.”
He continued: “And those aren’t words — you have to behave that way; you have to show her that after a tough game, you get in the car and it’s forgotten.”
In 2018, Bryant opened up to PEOPLE about coaching his daughter Gianna (nicknamed Gigi) in basketball, and how he used it as an opportunity to teach them life lessons.
“A valuable lesson that I can teach them is what it means to pursue excellence and the commitment level that comes with that,” Bryant said. “At the same time, making things fun and challenging, and learning new things. But they’re having a blast. … It’s been fun.”
Bryant previously said Gigi was set on continuing her father’s legacy in the basketball world, and WNBA players and women’s college basketball teams even paid tribute to the up-and-coming young sports star after her death.
Remembering Bryant in the wake of his loss, a friend of the family told PEOPLE that the dad always put his wife and daughters ahead of all else.
“One of the biggest things he was looking forward to after retiring from the NBA [in 2016] was getting to spend more time with his family,” the source said. “He was a very hands-on dad and, like any other father, saw such bright futures for all of his daughters.”
The source added: “He was so proud to see them take after not only him and Vanessa, but also grow into their own. He had a special bond with each of his daughters.”