Update, Feb 25:
In last night's victory over Stanford, Ionescu notched her 1,000th rebound, which secured the Ducks' Pac-12 title and made her the first Division I player ever with more than 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 rebounds. After the game, she dedicated the historic feat to Kobe Bryant, who died earlier this year, saying, "That was for him... He's looking down and really proud of me and just really happy for this moment with my team."
tw-align-center' February 25, 2020
Thousands gathered Monday morning at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the public memorial honoring basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who died along with seven other people in a helicopter crash in January. An estimated 20,000 mourners filled the stadium, home to the Los Angeles Lakers for whom Kobe spent his entire 20-season NBA career. Kobe's decades-long career, his fierceness on the court, and his unrivaled tenacity shaped a generation of young athletes—among those: Sabrina Ionescu, the senior Oregon Ducks women's basketball star.
During her seven-minute speech, Ionescu paid tribute to Kobe, whom she considered a friend and mentor, and Gianna.
On Kobe's influence:
"I grew up watching Kobe Bryant, game after game ring after ring, living his greatness without apology. I wanted to be just like him, to love every part of the competition, to be the first to show up and the last to leave, to love the grind, to be your best when you don't feel your best and make other people around you the best version of themselves, and to wake up and do it again the next day. So that's what I did: wake up, grind, and get better."
"If I represented the present of the women's game, she was the future... Gigi had so much of her dad's skill set. You could tell the amount of hours they spent in the gym, practicing her moves. She smiled all the time, but when it was game time, she was ready to kill. Her demeanor changed almost instantly when the whistle blew."
On Kobe's legacy and women in basketball:
"I wanted to be a part of the generation that changed basketball for Gigi and her teammates, where being born female didn't mean being born behind, where greatness wasn't divided by gender. 'You have too much to give to stay silent.' That's what [Kobe] said. That's what he believed. That's what he lived. Through Gigi, through me, through his investment in women's basketball. That was his next great act: a Girl Dad. Basketball in many ways was just a metaphor."
Watch the full speech below: