UConn, Geno Auriemma and Team USA offer touching tribute to Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant

The UConn women's basketball program on Monday paid tribute to Kobe Bryant, 41, and Gianna Bryant, 13, who were two of nine people who died in a helicopter crash Sunday morning in Calabasas, California. The Huskies held the tribute ahead of their exhibition game against the United States women's national team. Gianna, known to most as "Gigi," dreamed of one day playing for the Huskies.

"Mambacita is forever a Husky," the program tweeted along with a photo of a jersey dedicated to Gigi draped over a chair on the team's bench next to a bouquet of flowers.

Kobe and Gigi attended a game at UConn in March 2018, according to the Hartford Courant, and Kobe told the Los Angeles Times that his daughter was "hell-bent" on playing for the Huskies.

"Kobe and Gianna meant a lot to our program," the program also tweeted. "Our thoughts are with the Bryant family. Mamba Mentality will live on forever, but they are deeply missed."

As UConn prepared to play Team USA on Monday in Hartford, the players and fans in the arena paused for a 24-second moment of silence, a tribute to the No. 24 jersey that Bryant wore for the Lakers. Team USA took took an 8-second violation after the tip, which was a nod to the other jersey number Bryant wore during his legendary NBA career. Both have been retired by the Lakers. UConn subsequently allowed the 24-second shot clock to expire.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma appeared to wipe away tears as fans cheered during the tribute.

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