Today we’re going to introduce you to one of the coolest awards there is, because it’s all about supporting and growing women’s hoops: the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy award. You’ll find out what the award is, how it is earned, and when it started. You’ll also discover why the Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul won the inaugural award this year!
The annual Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy award honors the late Kobe Bryant, a devoted supporter of the WNBA and women’s basketball, and his daughter Gianna (also known as Gigi). The award aims to honor advocates and influencers who use their time, talent, and platform to raise awareness for the WNBA, and women’s and girls’ basketball in various ways, like Kobe was so committed to doing.
The Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award highlights Kobe’s legacy as a coach and mentor and Gigi’s inspirational, relentless commitment to playing at the highest levels of the game. Gigi, a happy, loving and competitive young lady, wanted to pursue her dreams of one day playing in the WNBA and continuing her father’s legacy while elevating women in sports. Gigi loved the game of basketball and aspired to reach the pinnacle of the sport like her father.
When the award was introduced in 2020, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said, “Kobe was an incredible champion of women’s basketball and Gianna shared his passion and dedication to our game. The Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award will honor their legacy and reflect Kobe’s commitment to mentoring the next generation of players, promoting the game and giving back to the community.”
Kobe Bryant contributed to the growth of the women’s game at every level through forging relationships, mentoring and training high school, college, NBA and WNBA players, coaching Gigi’s youth basketball team, and launching the Mamba Sports Academy (now called the Sports Academy). He also was involved with empowering girls through Her Time to Play, an initiative created by the WNBA and NBA dedicated to championing participation in athletics on behalf of girls and women.
Today Phoenix Suns’ 12-time NBA All-Star guard and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Chris Paul, has been named the inaugural recipient. A devoted fan of the WNBA and the Phoenix Mercury, Chris regularly attended games throughout the season and playoffs. You might have noticed him court side at Game 2 of the 2021 WNBA Finals.
He also uses his public platforms to highlight the on-court successes and stories of WNBA players, as well as their leadership in the community through their fight for social justice.
Chris supports the youth girls’ game through camps and the CP3 Basketball Academy, with a mission of using basketball to enhance young athletes’ aspirations, disciplines and life skills.
Prior to the start of the WNBA’s historic 25th season, Chris was among several NBA stars that wore a WNBA player’s jersey to amplify the historic significance of the moment. Additionally, Chris teamed up with Suns center Deandre Ayton to support the Mercury’s recent WNBA Finals playoff run, purchasing 500 tickets for Game 3 to donate to fans.
He also wants Diana Taurasi as his teammate. “Me at DT [Diana Taurasi] be at the gym talking hoops all day every day. And we’re just as competitive as each other. We both get into it with the officials all the time. So I feel like [we would be] a match made in heaven.” said Chris.
Chris Paul has also worn the WNBA orange hoodie on several occasions. Kobe popularized the WNBA’s orange hoodie when he wore it alongside Gigi at the Mavericks-Lakers game they attended together in December 2019. Not only marking an iconic moment of a “Girl Dad” supporting his daughter and her WNBA aspirations but also helping to make the hoodie the best ever-selling merchandise item of the WNBA.
“I have seen firsthand Chris’ appreciation of the WNBA and the game at every level for women and girls,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “His ardent support of our game strongly reflects the legacy of Kobe and Gigi. 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.”
The WNBA will make a donation to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a positive impact for underserved athletes and boys and girls in sports founded through the vision and loving memory of Kobe and Gigi Bryant. Speaking of growing the women’s game, up next, read all about the WNBA’s capital raise.