Many in the sports world and beyond have a collective heavy heart following the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, on Sunday -- a duo who shared a strong bond when it came to basketball.
That love for the game took Kobe and Gianna to Storrs, Conn. last year to watch a regular season game between UConn and Houston. SNY's Justine Ward caught up with them in the second quarter of the contest, and Kobe gushed about Gianna's love for the program -- one she hoped to be a part of someday.
"I think the players, first and foremost. The camaraderie that they have with each other is something she kind of gravitated to," Kobe said when asked what Gianna loved about the Huskies. "And then Geno (Auriemma) and (Chris Dailey) and their leadership and the culture of the program, all the way on down to Rebecca (Lobo) and Diana (Taurasi) and Sue (Bird), so she loves the program."
One of Bryant's staples was his tremendous work ethic on and off the court, trying to perfect his craft even more than the elite level he already brought to the table when he was drafted in 1996. That's a quality of UConn's program under Auriemma that he admired from the sideline as well.
"They play a game that's played together," he said. "Individually, they all have brilliant things that they do, but they sacrifice that individual brilliance for a team effort -- how they move the ball, how they move off the ball, how they screen for each other, defensively how they scheme well together. Those are things that's a lost art, and to be honest with you, it's a lost art in the NBA game."
The 41-year-old and his daughter were among nine people who died when his helicopter crashed in Calabasas, Calif. on Sunday morning. Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and daughther Alyssa were also among the deceased. They were on their way to a travel basketball game at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
As Ward wrapped up the interview last year, Kobe was asked if he missed the game, and he was quick to say he didn't. He had another business venture that included opening an animation studio, Granity. But he had a new perspective on basketball at the time, one that he shared with Gianna.
"I watch the game through my daughter's eyes," Kobe said.
And of course, when asked if she could beat her dad 1-on-1, Gianna responded with a smile: "Yeah."