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In Memoriam: Kobe and Gigi Bryant

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Now, championships come and go. There’s going to be another team that wins another championship, another player that wins another MVP award. But if you really want to create something that last generations, you have to help inspire the next generation... that’s when you create something forever. And that’s what’s most beautiful. — Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)

The last few days have been unlike any I can recall in my time as a sports fan. Like many, I’ve now spent hours staring at the internet in a state of shock, pouring over every highlight and tribute I can find, and I still find it hard to believe that Kobe Bryant is gone. Seeing “1978-2020” next to his name just doesn’t make any sense. I doubt it ever will.

To be honest, words seem painfully cheap at the moment. But as someone from Los Angeles who grew up cheering for Kobe and the Lakers, I feel compelled to try and articulate what he meant to my hometown, how he inspired LA, myself, and so many other fans and athletes around the world.


I was 3 years old when Kobe was drafted. For the next 20 years, I had the privilege of growing up in the audience of an athlete mastering his craft, night in and night out. I can still remember crowding around the TV with the rest of my family during his 81-point game. I remember watching him sink two free throws with a ruptured achilles as though it were only a blister. There were so many nights when I threw my homework aside to catch the 4th quarter of a game, knowing it was Mamba time. And I can’t tell you how many times I watched the replay of Kobe refusing to flinch when Matt Barnes pump-faked in his face.

Even in a sport full of larger-than-life personalities, and in a city overcrowded with celebrities, Kobe stood apart. His commitment to basketball was both incomparable and utterly infectious. It didn’t matter that I was a young girl playing soccer. He was still a role model, someone who taught me and many others that if you want to be great, there’s no such thing as doing too much.

As the tributes have begun to pour in over the last few days, it’s been astonishing to note the extent of Kobe’s influence. First there were the NBA games that followed on Sunday. For someone whose unapologetic competitiveness famously alienated so many of his teammates, Kobe was idolized by his peers in a way few athletes have ever been. He wasn’t just an inspiration, but a mentor to many, in and beyond the basketball world.

I’ve frankly never seen an athlete with a platform like Kobe’s give as much as he did to women’s sports. He cheered for the USWNT, he cheered for the WNBA, he cheered for women’s tennis, he cheered for women’s college basketball. And he didn’t just use his celebrity to bring these sports attention. He made real, lasting relationships with numerous female athletes, from Sabrina Ionescu to Naomi Osaka, Sydney Leroux to Elena Delle Donne. He built facilities where he invited them to train and learn from him. He coached his daughter’s basketball team. He believed in these athletes, and he made sure that they knew it. The outpouring of collective grief from the women’s sports world these last few days is entirely unprecedented. There’s no other athlete that meant this much to other athletes.

Kobe’s fanatic obsession with greatness slowly transformed into a drive to spread success as far as he could. Nowhere was this more evident than in his relationship with his daughter, Gianna. I’m gutted just thinking about the fact that they were on their way to play and coach together. My heart aches for the Bryant family and for every other family involved in the crash.


Gianna, or Gigi, was supposed to grow up, go to UConn, and carry the Bryant legacy into the WNBA. Only 13 years old, she already had the Mamba mentality. And of all of Kobe’s retirement endeavors, none, not even the Oscar, came close to matching the incredible joy he showed in coaching his daughter. It was beyond powerful to watch an all-time great, in real time, pass along his confidence, strength, and self-belief to his proclaimed Mambacita. The fact that the helicopter was on its way to a basketball game, and was carrying multiple players and their parents, only underlines the deep tragedy of the accident.

Inevitably, you can’t tell Kobe’s story without mentioning his rape accusation. Like so many, I find it nearly impossible to reconcile the Kobe of 2003 with the Kobe of 2020, father to four girls and mentor to countless female athletes. Being a fan of Kobe has always meant trying (and usually failing) to reconcile these seemingly disparate characters. In this matter, his death provides little to no clarity.

Ultimately, I think we have to be willing to hold complicated views of complicated people. No accomplishment on or off the court will make the details of Kobe’s case any less sickening. In the same vain, it’s impossible to stand witness to the endless stream of grief and tribute that’s engulfed the sports world over these last few days and not feel awed by the transformative impact one person can have on so many others.

Kobe’s death is a painful reminder of just how emotionally invested we are in sports — more so than most of us even understand. But our grief gives us away. And while on the surface it might seem almost silly to see so many grown adults, myself included, mourning the loss of an athlete we never personally knew, the reality is that we don’t need to meet our heroes for them to have an impact on our lives. We just need to see a glimmer of our own struggles embodied and magnified in theirs. We just need to be reminded as often as possible of the heights that human audacity can achieve.


And in the case of Kobe, his impact on our lives will continue through the profound influence he had on his fellow athletes, male and female, across all sports. More than the trophies, or the records, or his place on any “all-time” list, Kobe’s legacy will be defined by those athletes who continue to channel his spirit in their own pursuits of greatness.

Kobe first gained notoriety for his unapologetic obsession with being historically significant. But as he grew older, he clearly began to realize that it was his relationships rather than his records that would allow him to continue to change the game well after his playing days were through. Kobe still had so much more to give, and Gigi still had her entire life to turn his gifts into her own.

In quiet, loving memory of all those who were lost in the accident: Kobe and Gianna Bryant; John and Keri Altobelli, and their daughter Alyssa; Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton; Christina Mauser; and Ara Zobayan.

Our many condolences to their friends and families.  

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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