If we could fast-forward to what the future is supposed to look like in our perfect minds, we would be in the Spring of 2028. This same year, the Olympics are due to be hosted in her hometown of Los Angeles. We would all be awaiting the WNBA’s newest first-round draft pick to be announced and in the midst of the wait recall the four amazing years we got a chance to see our favorite player at her first-chosen college, the University of Connecticut (UConn).
We would have seen her lead the NCAA women’s Final Four and win multiple championships. She would come from a long line of basketball greats who also attended UConn including Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Breanna Stewart, and her favorite Gabby Williams.
We would have all watched her game grow for nearly a decade. And spectated to the point of the women’s games receiving more viewers and ticket sales than the men. She is methodical and gritty when she steps on the court, yet poised and delightful postgame. Her interviewing skills speak to the professionalism that well-trained professional athletes are accredited for. All of what basketball fans can attribute to her father, a legend in the NBA, would make all those who questioned him about not having a son, completely irrelevant.
Her name is Gianna Maria Onore Bryant, affectionately known as “Gigi”, but fiercely known as “Mambacita”.
On the evening of January 27, 2020, the Lady Huskies of UConn would have an exhibition game versus Team USA. Gianna would be honored by a chair on the team’s bench draped with a number 2 jersey and a beautiful white flower arrangement wrapped in a bright royal blue bow. It would not be to celebrate any record she set or surpassed but to welcome her as an honorary Lady Husky. And although the aforementioned foreshadowing of what could have been may give us a morsel of jubilee, it will never happen.
But, Gianna was all about women’s basketball. She studied the players, admired the players and took her education and admiration to extend into support in the form of attending the games, watching the games, and keeping up with the stats. It was her passion to be among the greatest–something we all know would have been true.
She respected the game because she was the game. A fierce competitor and a young lady among a new generation ready to take their places in history. As the WNBA and players association ushered in a new 350-page collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the approach to how we value women in the game of basketball has begun to change. It is changing for the girls who have played with Gianna, the ones who would’ve played with and against her in the future, and all of the fans of women’s sports who understand the importance of lifting our athletes.
It is now the perfect time, in honor of Gianna “Mambacita” Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli, and Payton Chester that we hold the torch of the fire they held in their bellies for this game and the players who they loved. It is not enough to say that we value women and not respect them for their athletic prowess and contributions to the game of basketball.
Supporting your neighborhood lady hoopers can get this ball bouncing. Donate to their fundraisers and attend their games. Cheer them on and let them know their work is valued. But, also remember the lady ballers of collegiate programs who also deserve believing that what they have produced on the court, warrants them to get to that next level. And before it is all said and done, remember that the next level for these athletes is the WNBA. No matter how much they are paid or how many people show up to the games, these women continuously devote time to their craft and communities. They show up and they show out.
Buy their jersey’s and tune in to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games, to watch lady Team USA bring us home the gold. It is up to us to prove just how significant this sport is for our girls and women as we stand together with them. It is what Alyssa would do. It is what Payton would do. And it is, undoubtedly, what Gianna Bryant would do.Share :