"I suppose that the only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most: being a dad, being a girl dad."
Kobe Bryant was a father to four daughters, and his pride over being a "girl dad" left an emotional impact on SportsCenter anchor Elle Duncan.
Following the NBA legend and his second-oldest daughter Gianna's tragic passing in a helicopter crash Sunday, thousands of colleagues, fellow athletes, friends and innumerable fans around the world have mourned their deaths online. Many have shared stories of past interactions with the 41-year-old superstar. Duncan's recollection of a conversation she had with Bryant, in particular, struck a chord with many and quickly went viral.
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Back when his third-oldest Bianka was just over a year, Elle spoke with Kobe "one time, backstage at an event for ESPN in New York. And I saw him, and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, that's Kobe. I gotta get a picture for the 'gram.'"
"Got the picture," she noted, "[but] I didn't get it for a few minutes because, as I approached him, he immediately commented on my rather large, eight-month pregnant belly."
Duncan said Bryant was instantly more interested in talking about her pregnancy than anything else. He wanted to know how she was feeling, when she was due and if she was expecting a son or daughter. "'A girl,' I said, and then he high-fived me: 'Girls are the best,'" she recalled. "I asked him for advice on raising girls, seeing as though he quite famously had three at the time, and he said, 'Just be grateful that you've been given that gift because girls are amazing.'"
Returning the genuine curiosity, Elle asked Kobe if he wanted more children. "He said that his wife Vanessa really wanted to try again for a boy but was sort of jokingly concerned that it would be another girl," she explained. "And I was like, 'Four girls, are you joking? Like, what would you think? How would you feel?' And without hesitation, he said, 'I would have five more girls if I could. I'm a girl dad.'"
"When it came to sports, he said that his oldest daughter [Natalia] was an accomplished volleyball player and that the youngest was a toddler, so TBD. But that middle one," she went on, fighting back tears. "He said, 'That middle one was a monster. She's a beast. She's better than I was at her age. She's got it.' That middle one, of course, was Gigi."
In fact, Kobe, Gigi and seven other passengers, including some of her teammates and coaches, were headed to Bryant's Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, where the girls were set to compete in a basketball tournament. They never made it.
"When I reflect on this tragedy and that half an hour that I spent with Kobe Bryant two years ago," Duncan said, "I suppose that the only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most: being a dad, being a girl dad."
Among those struck by her heartfelt anecdote was Chrissy Teigen, whose husband John Legend had a close relationship with the late basketball star.
"In a sea of tributes that ached my soul, this one had to be the most beautiful and heart wrenching," the mother of two wrote alongside the video above. "Thinking of their friends, families and the pain they are going through with great love. Someone take care of all the broken hearts dealing with unimaginable loss. Thank you, @elleduncan."