Bigger than basketball.
I took the below video in May of 2019. Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were in attendance as the WNBA Las Vegas Aces took on the Los Angeles Sparks. You can see how full of joy she appeared to be — how amused she was by either her dad being recognized or seeing the two of them on the Jumbotron, perhaps both, as though this hadn’t happened a thousand times before.
I remember smiling at how beautiful this daddy-daughter sighting was and Kobe having brought her to the game.
Many would say this is nothing and that Kobe was just doing what a father should do. Well, I’d say many don’t know what it’s like to grow up fatherless. To us, it’s something. Small gestures in the eyes of others represent monumental gaps in the timeline of our lives.
I played basketball in college and never had a father come or take me to a game. I doubt he even knew that I was on a team. In witnessing relationships such as Kobe and Gigi’s, you start to understand what you’ve missed.
Let’s address what, for some, may be a character elephant in the room if we must. So that we can move forward. Kobe has never been described as a perfect man or model husband. However, even the most unforgiving critic would struggle to find fault with who he was as a father. This has become even more apparent in the wake of the unfathomable accident that cut multiple lives tragically short, including his and Gigi’s.
I love the way Kobe loved his daughters.
He was tender and affectionate with them, and spoke their names with such pride. His bond with Gigi was especially evident once she started to play basketball and Kobe overtly nourished the interest by taking her on an NBA and WNBA tour, while working to teach her the craft he’d long mastered.
I once wondered if Kobe wished he’d had a son who could follow in his footsteps. Then I saw this video:
I assumed Kobe and Gigi were so close because they carried a similar passion. Then I saw this video:
Kobe was adamant that he would be just as invested in whatever Gigi or any of his girls decided to pursue. Then, I learned why he started taking helicopters:
It was all for them, his girls. And this is fatherhood — becoming whomever you need to be for your children — allowing them to shape you instead of trying to impose your will on them. It’s nurturing their gifts and interests, whatever they may be, and going all-in on helping them succeed. It’s making sure, above all else, that your children feel seen, heard, loved, supported, and protected. Fatherhood is being present. It’s showing up, by any means necessary.
I can’t tell a man how to be a father. But I know it when I see it. It sticks out because I haven’t seen it often. I can tell a man how to not make his daughter feel the way I felt. I can tell him that what I saw and had in my childhood was a stark contrast to Kobe, and if looking for a place to start or a blueprint, his is pretty formidable.
It’s clear that Kobe applied the Mamba Mentality to more than just basketball.
One of the most heart-warming developments to come from increased insight into “Kobe Bryant the father” is that he now has men proclaiming themselves to be a “Girl Dad.” And even if they aren’t, perhaps now they’ve been inspired to live up to this title — for the girls who need their dads.