My name is Diana Taurasi.
Thanks, Jimmy. You stole my first joke. I am the “White Mamba”.
I would first like to offer my deepest condolences to all the families who’ve lost a loved one. In 1996, I was a lanky awkward freshman in high school, obsessively shooting night after night in my driveway. On the nights the Lakers played, I wouldn’t miss a second of the game. Every timeout, every commercial, I’d run to the front yard to imitate my favorite Laker, Kobe.
On a few lucky occasions, my dad would come home from work, he was a metal sheet worker in Los Angeles. He’d come home with Laker tickets. Watching Kobe play the Great Western Forum as a rookie made this little girl believe she could be a Laker one day. It was like getting to know myself every single day. He made it okay to play with an edge that borderlined crazy.
Early onset Mamba mentality was in full effect. Years later when I spent time with Kobe at the 2008 Olympics, I learned firsthand that it just wasn’t limited to the basketball court. His competitive fire ran through his veins, just like many of us today.
Every single workout, I end the same way with the Kobe game-winner. Three hard dribbles going right. Left foot plant pivot. Swing right leg through, elevate square up. Follow through. Five in a row and I got to go home. It’s that exact same shot that won us the championship in Phoenix in 2014.
Kobe’s willingness to do the hard work and make the sacrifice every single day inspired me and resonated with the city of Los Angeles. We struggle together. We grew together. We celebrate the victories together.
The same passion we all recognized in Kobe, obviously Gigi inherited. Her skill was undeniable at an early age. I mean, who has a turnaround fadeaway jumper at 11? LeBron barely got it today.
It was her curiosity about the game that was pushing her to pick up the basketball every single day. Gigi was in the midst of the best times as a basketball player’s career. No responsibilities, no expectations. Just basketball with your best friends.
Every weekend was a new adventure, an opportunity to learn how to work and grow together as a unit. As a young kid, there’s nothing you look forward to more than long hot summer days in the gym with your homies. The same way Kobe inspired a generation of basketball players, Gigi in turn Kobe’s interest in coaching and teaching the game.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who received the text from Kobe asking what drills you are doing when they were 13.
Gigi in many ways, represents the future of women’s basketball. A future where a young woman aspires to play in the WNBA. The same way I wanted to be a Laker.
Gigi already had goals to play for UConn that in itself showed her fearless mentality. She represents a time where a young girl doesn’t need permission to play. Her skill would command respect.
The last time I saw Gigi, the Mambas were in Phoenix for a big AAU tournament. Kobe Bryant brought them to the locker room to watch practice. I always remember the look on Gigi’s face. It was a look of excitement. A look at belonging. A look of fierce determination.
As a daughter, a sister wife and a mother, we embrace Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka and Capri. We promise to carry Gigi’s legacy. Kobe, Gigi está en la corazón de Los Angeles. Los Angeles nunca muere. Te quiere mucho.