A flood of heartbreaking tributes poured onto social media as soon as news broke that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, had died along with seven others in a helicopter accident on Sunday.
Among the sea of personal photos and stories about how the icon affected the lives of those he met was an anecdote from SportsCenter anchor Elle Duncan, who shared a touching moment that took place when she met Bryant in May 2018 at an ESPN event in New York City.
Duncan recalled during a Monday night broadcast that when she first spotted Byrant, she thought to herself, “Oh my gosh, that’s Kobe. I’ve gotta get a picture for the ‘gram.”
The 36-year-old sports commentator said as she started to approach Bryant to ask for a photo, the Lakers veteran “immediately commented on my rather large, eight-month pregnant belly.”
The late Bryant, a father of three girls at the time who went on to welcome a fourth daughter in June 2019 with wife Vanessa, excitedly asked Duncan how close she was to her due date and if she was expecting a boy or a girl.
“‘A girl,’ I said and then he high-fived me: ‘Girls are the best.'” she recalled. “I asked him for advice on raising girls seeing as though he quite famously had three at the time and he said, ‘Just be grateful that you’ve been given that gift because girls are amazing.'”
Duncan then asked Bryant, whose daughter Bianka was about a year and a half old at the time, if he wanted to have 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,” Duncan said. “I was like, ‘Four girls, are you joking? Like, what would you think? How would you feel?’ And without hesitation, he said, ‘I would have five more girls if I could. I’m a girl dad.'”
As luck would have it, Bryant’s daughters all seemed to show natural athletic talent, he told the reporter.
“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,'” Duncan recalled through tears. “That middle one, of course, was Gigi.”
Bryant and his daughter died Sunday while on their way to a basketball game in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where Gigi was supposed to play and Bryant was supposed to coach alongside his assistant coach, Christina Mauser, who also perished in the accident.
Other victims were later identified as Alyssa Altobelli — a teammate of Gigi’s at Mamba Sports Academy — and her parents, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli and wife, Keri Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton Chester — another teammate of Gigi’s — and helicopter pilot Ara Zobayan.
Duncan said reflecting on her conversation with Bryant, she was able to find solace in knowing the moments leading up to his death were spent doing what he loved.
“I suppose that the only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most: being a dad. Being a girl dad,” she ended the broadcast.
“In a sea of tributes that ached my soul, this one had to be the most beautiful and heart wrenching,” Teigen wrote.
“Thinking of their friends, families and the pain they are going through with great love. Someone take care of all the broken hearts dealing with unimaginable loss,” she added, thanking the reporter for sharing her story.
More to read: