Gianna Bryant, teammates chosen as honorary picks in WNBA draft

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Gianna Bryant, two of her teammates selected as honorary picks in WNBA draft

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Gianna Bryant and two of her teammates -- Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester -- who were among nine people killed in a January helicopter crash in California along with NBA legend Kobe Bryant, were named honorary selections in Friday’s WNBA draft.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert made the announcement at the start of the draft, the Los Angeles Times reported. Engelbert, conducting the virtual draft from her home and sitting in front of a bookcase, announced each girl's name individually, opening with the phrase, "the WNBA selects."

Honorary jerseys were shown on the screen with the 13-year-old girls' last names on them, ESPN reported. They were passengers on a helicopter that crashed as it traveled to a basketball game at Kobe Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy on Jan. 26.

“They represented the next generation of stars in our league,” Engelbert said, “what might have been called as the Mambacita generation.”

Gianna Bryant had hoped to play basketball at the University of Connecticut, while Altobelli and Chester rooted for Oregon, the Times reported.

Albotelli’s brother released a prerecorded message, wearing a green Oregon sweatshirt, saying he was certain his younger sister would have become a Duck and then gone on to a WNBA career, the newspaper reported.

Vanessa Bryant, wearing an orange WNBA hoodie that belonged to her husband, recorded a message, saying being drafted into the WNBA "would have been a dream come true for (Gianna)."

“She wanted to be one of the greatest athletes of all time,” Vanessa Bryant said. "Just like her daddy.”

Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu was chosen as the No. 1 overall pick by the New York Liberty on Friday night, ESPN reported. She was friends with the Bryant family and spoke at the memorial service for Kobe and Gianna.

"I think it was a very beautiful thing that the WNBA did to be able to draft those three girls,'' Ionescu said. "They deserved it. I know they’re looking down and smiling and really excited.''

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