WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that the world “lost a big advocate for women’s basketball, the WNBA and women’s sports” following the tragic helicopter crash killing NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others en route to a Mamba Sports Academy basketball tournament.
In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Engelbert discussed not only Bryant’s legacy but also the unadulterated passion his daughter brought to the sport.
“We hope to continue on his legacy and obviously Gigi and the other girls on that helicopter, being the future generation of our players,” Engelbert said. “It’s hard to shake this feeling that we had so much potential with Kobe and his daughter, and the ability of him to influence others and to draw them to the WNBA and to our game.”
Engelbert learned about Bryant’s commitment to women’s athletics soon after she was appointed Commissioner of the WNBA in May 2019. She revealed that Bryant met with her in the WNBA offices, and he told her that he spent four hours a day focusing on women's and girls’ basketball because he was coaching his daughter.
“I saw this glimmer in his eye when he talked about girls’ basketball, the WNBA, and his support,” Engelbert said. “He had just been at our All-Star Game last summer with Gigi.”
Engelbert noted how Bryant’s style of play, with a focus on strategy and fundamentals, resonated with female basketball players.
“That perspective around the purest form of the game that women play that you don’t see on the men’s side because of their height, strength and how close they are to the rim versus women,” Engelbert said. “The strategy of basketball is what Kobe represented and what he was teaching in those young girls. He was coaching the core strategy and fundamentals of the game, because no matter what size or shape you are, you can play this game. That’s what Kobe inspired.”
Bryant’s support was apparent off the court too. The five-time NBA champion publicly lauded Engelbert’s efforts following the league’s historic Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that includes new, progressive family planning benefits and a 53-percent increase in total cash compensation for all players from rookies to veterans.
Engelbert revealed that Gigi's and her father’s legacy will endure as preparations for the start of the season begin.
“That's what was so special about Kobe and Gigi, they had this love for the game that will live on and continue to inspire us all.”
To learn more about Kobe Bryant and his impact on the women’s basketball, watch the full interview with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert above.
Emily DeCiccio is a video producer and reporter for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.