MIAMI — Part of the sadness of Kobe Bryant’s death was it happened as he and daughter Gigi were sharing a passion for what made him so well known in the first place — a love of basketball.
In retirement, Bryant had become such a huge advocate for women’s hoops that when WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert began her job, she quickly heard from one former NBA player.
“I had a text from [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver that Kobe Byant wants to see you,” Engelbert said at the Playmakers’ event presented by Dow Jones on Friday. “Kobe came to the WNBA offices. I spent two hours with him. He walked in the room, and it was like we have known each other our whole life.”
Kobe and Gigi died last Sunday in a helicopter crash in California as they and seven others were headed to the Mamba Sports Academy basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks.
“He started out by saying, ‘I spend four hours a day on girls basketball and I love it,’ ” Engelbert said. “He really had a passion obviously for the sport, but for the girls/women sports. He had great relationships with WNBA players. We have lost a real advocate. He was really going to advocate.”
Englebert made a point to mention Gigi and her basketball playing friends in the helicopter, Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli.
“We are going to honor the three girls at our WNBA draft this year in April,” Engelbert said. “We have a lot of ideas.”