Saturday, September 18, 2021

WNBA Celebrates Gianna Bryant and Mamba Academy Teammates as Honorary 2020 Draft Picks

Gianna “GiGi” Bryant

*The WNBA memorialized Gianna “GiGi” Bryant during the organization’s annual draft Friday by making her and fellow Mamba Academy teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester  honorary 2020 draft picks.

The three teenagers were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash on January 26, which also claimed the life of Gianna’s father, NBA icon Kobe Bryant.

“While it brings us pain not to see their dreams come to fruition, I’m grateful and proud to announce them tonight as honorary draft picks,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said during the Friday virtual ceremony, The Root reports. 

Family members of the crash victims expressed their gratitude for the honor in speeches, including Vanessa Bryant.

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“It would have been a dream come true for her. She worked tirelessly every single day. She wanted to be one of the greatest athletes of all-time, just like her daddy. So thank you, thank you for honoring my little girl,” Bryant said, adding that “Kobe and GiGi loved the WNBA. This is his sweatshirt. Thank you. I want to congratulate all of this year’s draft picks. So congratulations, work hard. Never settle. Use that Mamba Mentality.”

In related news, the Altobelli family and Mauser family have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the helicopter company Island Express after John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli and Christina Mauser died in the same crash that killed Kobe and Gianna.

“The surviving family members claim Island Express negligently and carelessly breached its duty to own, lease, manage, maintain, control, entrust, charter and operate the helicopter in question in a reasonable manner,” TMZ Sports wrote.

This comes after attorneys for Vanessa filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express.

“Defendant Island Express Helicopters authorized, directed and/or permitted a flight with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also cites negligence on the part of pilot Ara Zobayan, who died in the crash.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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