On Sunday, the WNBA announced that it has created the Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award to honor the legacies of the late Los Angeles Lakers star and his daughter. The inaugural award will be presented to Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul on Sunday night prior to the 2022 NBA All-Star Game.
After his retirement, Kobe became one of the WNBA's most notable supporters. He was often seen courtside at games with his daughter, and worked out with and mentored numerous players. Gigi was herself a talented player, and had dreams of playing in the league one day. This award is an attempt to honor those who show the same level of support and commitment for women's basketball.
Paul has been a supporter of the WNBA throughout his career, but his connection to the league has grown since he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, the brother organization of the Phoenix Mercury. "I want to see them win and be successful," Paul said last year. "We are like one big team."
Perhaps most notably, he bought 500 tickets for fans for Game 3 of the Mercury's semifinal matchup with the Las Vegas Aces in last season's playoffs. The Mercury won that game and eventually went on to the WNBA Finals. Unfortunately, just like the Suns a few months before them, they fell short in the end.
"I have seen first-hand Chris' appreciation of the WNBA and the game at every level for women and girls, especially in Phoenix and North Carolina, and his ardent support of our game strongly reflects the legacy of Kobe and Gigi," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. "The league is proud to name Chris as the inaugural recipient of the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award, as he serves as a leader and role model for other professional athletes around growing the future of the game for young girls and all fans."
In addition to handing out this new award, the WNBA has committed to making a donation to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a positive impact for underserved athletes.