On Sunday, Jan. 26th, a helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California, claiming all nine lives aboard. As word quickly spread that basketball legend Kobe Bryant was among the victims, the world came to a stop. As this unthinkable day unfolded, celebrities, former teammates and fans struggled to express the unfathomable pain of losing such an extraordinary player and father. Through tragedy and grief, however, an inspiring movement on social media has emerged from the dark: #girldad.
Bryant was a father to four girls ranging in age from under a year to 17. He died alongside 13-year-old Gianna while taking her to a travel basketball game. That aspect, in particular, touched ESPN anchor Elle Duncan, who shared the story behind her first and only interaction with Bryant while backstage at an event in New York.
Courtesy: @SportsCenter Twitter
At the time of her encounter, Duncan was 8 months pregnant and her belly was the first thing Bryant noticed. Duncan said that Bryant immediately asked how she was doing and asked what gender her baby was going to be.
When Duncan told him that she was expecting a girl, Bryant, who had three daughters at the time, high-fived her and said, “Girls are the best.”
Bryant assured Duncan, “‘Just be grateful that you’ve been given that gift because girls are amazing…I would have five more girls if I could. I’m a girl dad.’”
This statement was evident through the joy on his face as he watched Gianna play basketball or their courtside interactions at many mid-season NBA games. During his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Bryant spoke about the calming experience it was to teach his eldest daughter, Natalia, to drive.
Duncan concluded her tribute by saying, “When I reflect on this tragedy and the half an hour that I spent with Kobe Bryant two years ago, I suppose the only small source of comfort for me is knowing he died doing what he loved the most. Being a dad. Being a ‘girl dad.'”
Courtesy: The US Sun
When Duncan’s story was shared on social media, it was retweeted nearly 30,000 times and just like that, the words “girl dad” turned from an ordinary phrase into an empowering statement of pride that resonated with many parents across the world. Proud fathers with daughters began sharing photos with their kids and the hashtag in honor of Bryant.
On Twitter, Chrissy Teigen, wife to singer John Legend and mother of a three-year-old daughter, reacted to Duncan’s heartfelt tribute and said, “The last time I remember John crying, aside from this week, was when Luna wrapped her little finger around his at the hospital when she was born. There really is something magical about girls and their dads.”
While Kobe Bryant left a defining mark on the world of basketball, he left an equally important imprint on the meaning and purpose of fatherhood—one that girl dads around the world can forever live by.