“One of the last conservations we had, man, he was just telling me how he’s seen my game progress,” Young, 21, told The Athletic Sunday after his game against the Washington Wizards.
“He was just happy for me,” he continued. “He was saying how proud he was of me and how he wants to continue seeing me be a role model for kids growing up and just for Gigi and all of the kids looking up to me and continue to inspire these kids and continue to play my heart out. That was one of the last things he said to me.”
According to the outlet, Young was 13-year-old Gianna’s favorite player in the NBA. In fact, Gianna began training with Alex Bazzell, Young’s trainer during the offseason, as well as with her famous father.
Hours after news broke that Bryant, 41, and Gianna, nicknamed Gigi, were killed in the crash, Young competed against the Wizards, where many of his stats eerily resembled the late athlete’s, including that he attempted 24 shots — one of Bryant’s jersey numbers.
“It’s crazy. Kobe was with me,” Young said. “There are some other stats that they told me in the back, and I was like, ‘Man, Kobe was with me tonight.’ ”
At the end of the first half, Young stole a pass and nailed a shot from beyond half court, per The Atlantic. After the shot went in, Young blew a kiss to the crowd, said “Rest in peace, Kobe,” and pointed to the sky.
“There’s so much that Kobe has done in the game and so many kids he’s inspired in the game of basketball, but it’s more than just that,” Young said. “There’s Kobe the basketball player, but there’s Kobe the author, Kobe the dad, Kobe the businessman. He’s reached so many people and touched so many people in this world that it’s not just basketball.”
“That’s why it’s a tough day for not only basketball fans but people in general,” he added. “There were a lot more people who were fans of him for other reasons, too. That’s why it’s such a tough day.”
Young also paid tribute to Bryant and Gianna on Twitter Sunday, sharing a photo of a past meeting with the father-daughter duo.
“…This S*** can’t be real… this the first moment I was able to meet Gianna Maria, she’s been to only 3 games this year… 2 of them were mine… She told me I was her favorite player to watch I can’t believe this,” Young wrote.
...This S*** can’t be real... this the first moment I was able to meet Gianna Maria, she’s been to only 3 games this year... 2 of them were mine... She told me I was her favorite player to watch🙏🏽 I can’t believe this😢😭— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) January 26, 2020
Rest Easy Gigi❤️ pic.twitter.com/IfDrE9Gjlv
Bryant and Gianna were two of nine victims who perished in a deadly helicopter crash on Sunday in Calabasas, California.
Sarah Chester and her daughter, eighth-grader Payton, the head basketball coach at Orange Coast College John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, girls basketball coach Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan were also on the aircraft during the incident. There were no survivors.
Bryant and Gianna are survived by his wife Vanessa, 37, and their daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.