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Kobe Bryant, Daughter Gianna Remembered During UConn Women's Basketball Exhibition

Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public Radio
The University of Connecticut honored Gianna Bryant, the daughter of five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, on Monday, a day after both died in a helicopter crash, by placing a jersey and flowers on an empty bench seat.

The death of Kobe Bryant was fresh on the minds of basketball fans who went to an exhibition game Monday between the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team and Team USA in Hartford.

James Hurdle of Windsor Locks brought his daughter to the game. They were both wearing Kobe Bryant No. 8 Lakers jerseys. Hurdle said he admired Bryant because of his work ethic.

“It doesn’t matter how hard you work, I’m going to outwork you, so that’s what I tried to instill in her,” James Hurdle said. “It doesn’t matter what the next man is doing, you’ve got to go out there and prove yourself.”

Bryant’s daughter Gianna, 13, also died in Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed nine. The teenager wanted to play for Geno Auriemma and the Huskies.

“Me and my mom were talking last night, and I want to dedicate my basketball career to Gianna, who never actually got to be able to do that,” said Jasmine Hurdle, 12.

James Hurdle said he had a conversation with his daughter after he got the news about his favorite player.

He said he told her that tomorrow isn’t promised -- and that she should play every ballgame like it’s her last.

Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio
James Hurdle of Windsor Locks dissects warm-ups of an exhibition at the XL Center in Hartford with his daughter Jasmine. They both wore Kobe Bryant jerseys in memory of James Hurdle's favorite player.

Team USA visited Hartford to play the Huskies in a tune-up for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Many of the players on the national team used to suit up for UConn, like Sue Bird, who scored nine points Monday.

UConn hung around against the all-star team but lost 79-64. After the game, Auriemma spoke about putting on that game one day after the loss of Bryant and his daughter, both close friends of the UConn program.

“It wasn’t easy,” Auriemma said. “You can’t react to something like that and say, ‘Well, this is what you do when this happens.’”

“You don’t know what to do -- you don’t know what to say -- so, you just kind of sit there. Then, you’ve got these kids back with their families -- the national team is here -- so you’ve got to put on a happy face and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Before the game, UConn honored Gianna Bryant by placing a jersey with her No. 2 on the back of an empty bench chair. A bouquet of white flowers was placed on the seat.

Bryant once said that his daughter was “hell-bent” on playing for Auriemma at UConn. They both caught a game in Storrs last March.

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