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Gianna “Gigi” Bryant should have been celebrating her 17th birthday today, in the way any teenage girl would celebrate: surrounded by friends and family, laughter, and lots of cake. But her life was tragically cut short on January 26th, 2020, when she was killed in a helicopter crash alongside her father, Kobe Bryant, and seven others. Instead of current celebratory photos, there are only memorial tributes on this special day — and perhaps the most emotional come from Gigi’s mom, Vanessa Bryant.
“Happy 17th birthday, baby girl. I love you and miss you so much, sweet Angel,” Bryant wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of Gigi. In the photo, Gigi — who is riding a carousel — smiles from ear to ear with a happy, radiant glow on her face. She is just the epitome of joy, and she looks so much like her dad.
A second Instagram photo features Gigi with two of her sisters (Vanessa and Kobe Bryant share daughters Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri), and is captioned, “Happy birthday, sweet Gigi! We love you to the moon and back infinity +1. Forever & Always.”
The third is a sweet snapshot of Vanessa and three of the girls taken on what appears to be the same day as the first two, and Vanessa wrote, “Te Amo Mambacita ❤️ Happy birthday, baby girl. 😘❤️🎂❤️”
Gigi Was So Loved
Fans and friends flocked to the comments to offer their own birthday wishes.
“Happy birthday beautiful Gigi! We love you❤️,” wrote Khloé Kardashian. Candace Parker, Ciara, Rachel Zoe, Kathy Hilton, and Taraji P. Henson were among other celebrities who paid tribute, and the Los Angeles Lakers official Instagram commented “Happy birthday, Gigi 💜💛” with two hearts in Lakers purple and gold.
The heartwarming tributes didn’t stop there. Nike’s official Instagram account also posted a touching video montage featuring footage of Gigi playing basketball, along with friends, teammates, and a former coach talking about what it means to them to “play Gigi’s way.”
“Playing Gigi’s way means making everyone around you better,” said Gianna’s friend and teammate Aubrey Callaghan. “Gigi’s been making me better since we were 5 years old.” Oh, our hearts!
A Lasting Legacy
Also in honor of what would have been Gigi’s 17th birthday, Nike debuted its newest shoe: the Kobe IV Protro “Mambacita” (which, as of press time, had already sold out within hours of its release). It has specific design features which pay homage to Gigi — a black and white colorway which are the colors of her childhood basketball team; a red Nike swoosh on the sole as a nod to the red ribbon Gigi wore for her school photos; her name on the lace tips and the heel; and a gingham stripe and insole inspired by the flannel she liked to wear around her waist. Proceeds from the shoe benefit the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed in memory of Kobe and Gianna that helps underserved young athletes.
As part of her birthday tribute, Vanessa Bryant also posted a behind-the-scenes video of the shoe’s design.
Gigi’s Memory is Always Kept Alive
In 2022, in honor of Gigi’s 16th birthday, her mom posted an animated video guaranteed to make even the most stoic person shed a tear.
“Dear Gigi,” the voiceover begins, “From the first time you imagined winning a WNBA championship, I knew one thing was real: you were special.”
The video, featuring black and white sketches of Gianna playing basketball, continues: “You came from greatness. But it was never about what you inherited. It was about what you gave to others. When someone stands up for gender equality, I see you fighting alongside them. And every time someone plays her hardest, I know that’s you on the court.”
The video ends with “Love always, Basketball” and — if you’re anything like us — a tissue.
Though Gianna Bryant’s life may have ended far too soon, it’s so sweet to see the impact she continues to have — not only on those who loved her, but far beyond.
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