Many people have come forward in the past few days to share personal stories about Kobe Bryant, who died with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday. While every story adds more dimension to a person who is no longer with us, those about Bryant as a father feel more special and more devastating considering how he died.
Bryant had four daughters ranging in age from under a year to 17. He died with 13-year-old Gianna while taking her to a travel basketball game. That aspect in particular touched ESPN anchor Elle Duncan, who shared the story behind her first and only meeting with Bryant — which happened when she was eight months pregnant — on Monday night’s “SportsCenter.”
“It’s likely that you’re hearing many personal anecdotes about Kobe Bryant, so here’s mine. I met Kobe one time, backstage at an event for ESPN in New York. And I saw him, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. That’s Kobe. I gotta get a picture for the ‘Gram. … I didn’t get it for a few minutes, because, as I approached him, he immediately commented on my rather large eight-month pregnant belly. ‘How are you? How close are you? What are you having?’ ‘A girl,’ I said, and he then high-fived me. ‘Girls are the best.’
“I asked him advice on raising girls, as he quite famously had three at the time. He said, ‘just be grateful that you’ve been given that gift because girls are amazing.’ His third daughter, Bianka, was about a year-and-a-half old at the time, so I asked if he wanted more children. He said that his wife Vanessa really wanted to try again for a boy, but was sort of jokingly concerned that it would be another girl. And I was like, ‘four girls, are you joking? What would you think? How would you feel?’
Without hesitation, he said ‘I would have five more girls if I could. I’m a girl dad.’
When it came to sports, he said that his oldest daughter was an accomplished volleyball player, and that the youngest was a toddler, so TBD. But that middle one, he said that middle one was ‘a monster, she’s a beast. She’s better than I was at her age. She’s got it.’ That middle one of course was GiGi. When I reflect on this tragedy, and that half hour I spent with Kobe Bryant two years ago, I suppose that the only small source of comfort for me is knowing he died doing what he loved the most: being a dad. Being a girl dad.”
Duncan asked for advice, and she got some, but she also learned that Bryant was a proud “girl dad” who loved raising his girls to be strong, confident, world-beating women. From that one interaction, Duncan saw that Bryant was proud of each of his daughters’ accomplishments, and didn’t feel the need to press his legacy on them. His wife may have wanted to try for a boy, but Bryant wanted — and got — another girl. Vanessa Bryant gave birth to little Capri in June 2019.
Hopefully others can also be comforted in some small way knowing that Bryant died while being the best “girl dad” he could be, and that his stedfast commitment to his daughters will inspire “girl dads” everywhere.
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