Remembering Gianna Bryant: Rising basketball star would’ve celebrated 14th birthday Friday

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11) -- May 1 marks what would have been rising basketball star Gianna “Gigi” Bryant’s fourteenth birthday.

The daughter of Los Angeles Lakers icon, Kobe Bryant, had a mission to carry on her father’s basketball legacy.

In his final sit-down interview with FOX 11's Liz Habib, Kobe talked about Gigi handling the pressure at the free-throw line.

Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant

"She looks up, looks at it, she closes her eyes, and takes a couple deep breaths. She completely calms down, and she goes does to the free-throw line and drains them. Wins the game! Alright man!” he said filled with pride and excitement.

Kobe Bryant is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, playing all 20 seasons of his professional career for the Lakers. Some of his accomplishments include winning five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, making 18 NBA All-Star game appearances, in which he was named All-Star game MVP four times.

On an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Kobe confirmed his wife, Vanessa, went into labor with Gianna hours after winning a playoff game against the Phoenix Suns on April 30, 2006. The Lakers challenged the Suns to a seven-game series but ultimately lost in the first round of the 2006 NBA playoffs.

It was a game to remember. "On this day 14 years ago, Kobe beat the buzzer twice to will us to a playoff victory," the Lakers shared Thursday in an Instagram post.

The men in purple and gold later went on to win back-to-back NBA championships in 2009 and 2010.

The Bryant family maintained a relatively private life, but Gianna's passion for basketball became known upon Kobe's retirement.

After retiring from the NBA in 2016, he was able to spend more time with his family and started coaching Gigi's AAU girls' basketball team.

Gigi's dream was to play college hoops at UConn before declaring for the WNBA draft.

Her lifelong dreams never came to fruition.

Her life, along with her father's and seven others, were cut short in a tragic helicopter crash on January 26. Basketball coach and mother, Christina Mauser, two of Gianna’s teammates, 13-year-old Alyssa Altobelli and 12-year-old Payton Chester, along with their parents were also killed in the crash.

The eight passengers were bound for a girls' basketball tournament at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy when the helicopter crashed in the Santa Monica Mountains in Calabasas on what was a foggy morning in the Los Angeles area.

Gigi, Alyssa and Payton were named honorary draft packs during the WNBA virtual draft April 17.

Bryant loved being what’s become coined as a “Girl Dad," and often called his daughters "princesses." #GirlDad began trending on social media shortly after the tragic crash as father's celebrated their daughters in honor of Kobe and Gianna's close bond.

During his last appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he described his oldest daughter, Natalia, as the “calm, responsible and thoughtful one,” and jokingly said his second-born, Gigi, was “like a tornado," and shared many of his personality traits.

Kobe Bryant made numerous appearances on the late-night show throughout the years. Kimmel consequently hosted Kobe and Gianna's Celebration of Life on February 24 at Staples Center, also known as "The House that Kobe Built."

“She was daddy’s girl, but I know she loved her mama. She would always tell me and show me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends,” Vanessa Bryant said during her eulogy at the memorial.

Gianna Bryant is survived by her mother, Vanessa, her older sister Natalia, 17, and two younger sisters, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 10 months.