Vanessa Bryant appears at the NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland to present the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award

Vanessa Bryant appeared at the NBA All-Star Game at the Rocket Mortgage Field House in Cleveland on Sunday to present veteran player Chris Paul with the first-ever Kobe and Gigi Bryant Advocacy Award.

 

 

Vanessa, 39, donned an all-black ensemble of a long coat, sweater top, pants and pointy-toed boots as she wore her brown locks down and parted at the annual event.

 

 

Vanessa – who is mom to daughters Natalia, 19, the late Gigi, 13, Bianka, five, and Capri, two, with the late NBA icon – posed with Paul, 36, his daughter Cameron, nine, and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, 58, on the floor at the venue as the honors were awarded.

Paul, a 12-time All-Star who is on the Phoenix Suns, was honored ‘for his significant contributions to the advancement of girls’ and women’s basketball, and advocacy for the WNBA,’ the WNBA said in a news release.

 

 

The honors are aimed at shining a light on those ‘who use their time, talent, and platform to raise awareness for the WNBA, and women’s and girls’ basketball in various ways,’ as the late Kobe Bryant did on multiple fronts.

The award ‘highlights Kobe’s legacy as a coach and mentor and Gigi’s inspirational, relentless commitment to playing at the highest levels of the game,’ the WNBA said.

 

 

‘Gigi, a happy, loving and competitive young lady, wanted to pursue her dreams of one day playing in the WNBA and continuing her father’s legacy while elevating women in sports.

‘Gigi loved the game of basketball and aspired to reach the pinnacle of the sport like her father. ‘The WNBA credited Kobe’s focus on boosting women’s basketball ‘at every level’ by ‘forging relationships,

 

 

mentoring and training high school, college, NBA and WNBA players, coaching Gigi’s youth basketball team, and launching the Mamba Sports Academy,’ which the league said it would to donate to.

Paul was honored for the ‘unique level of support’ he has ‘consistently demonstrated’ for the WNBA and the Phoenix Mercury with his attendance and use of his platforms.

Said Engelbert: ‘I have seen first-hand Chris’ appreciation of the WNBA and the game at every level for women and girls, especially in Phoenix and North Carolina, and his ardent support of our game strongly reflects the legacy of Kobe and Gigi.

‘The league is proud to name Chris as the inaugural recipient of the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award, as he serves as a leader and role model for other professional athletes around growing the future of the game for young girls and all fans.

‘Paul and Bryant were set to be teammates after a three-way deal in December of 2011 that would have sent Paul to the Lakers, but the deal was nixed by then-NBA Commissioner David Stern.

Vanessa took to Instagram earlier on Sunday to thank her NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league for commemorating her late husband Kobe Bryant with a trophy named in his honor.

‘Thank you Adam Silver and the @nba [heart emoji] #TheKobeBryantTrophy ~ All Star Game MVP #1,’ Vanessa wrote in the caption of the shot, which includes multiple shots of the trophy and a letter Silver wrote addressed to her and her daughters.

The letter from Silver read: ‘Enclosed is the newly designed Kobe Bryant trophy which will be awarded annually to the NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player.

The trophy is a tribute to Kobe’s legendary career that set records and inspired generations of basketball fans. ‘We all continue to miss Kobe dearly and we hope this award serves in a meaningful way to honor and celebrate his remarkable legacy in our league forever.

I look forward to seeing you in Cleveland if you are able to attend. Fondly, Adam.’ Vanessa put the post up to her 15.4 million followers ahead of the game.

The redesigned trophy, which the league announced earlier this month, was designed by artist Victor Solomon and features multiple elements paying homage to the late Los Angeles Lakers stalwart, who played for 20 years in the league prior to his retirement in 2016.

It features a base with eight sides, paying homage to Bryant’s former No. 8 jersey; with 18 stars on it to represent the 18 times he was named to the All-Star team. The base is two inches tall as a nod to his All-Star Game MVP award in 2002.

The trophy’s first level makes the trophy seven inches tall, as a nod to Bryant’s All-Star Game MVP award in 2007, with 24 stars to mark Bryant’s former No. 24 number he wore later in his career, as well as the number of players in the game.

The trophy’s second level makes the trophy nine inches tall, as a nod to Bryant’s All-Star Game MVP award in 2009, with 10 stars to mark Bryant’s No. 10 jersey on Team USA, as well as the number of starting players in the game.

The trophy’s third level makes the trophy 11 inches tall, as a nod to Bryant’s All-Star Game MVP award in 2011, with five stars to represent the number of championships he led the Lakers to in his career.

The trophy’s third level is two inches tall, to represent the pair of NBA Finals MVP awards Bryant won, as well as a lone star to commemorate his win of the NBA’s MVP award in 2008.

‘For the past few years, the NBA and I have proudly and tirelessly worked to reconsider what a trophy is, has been and could be,’ artist Solomon told CNN.

‘Redesigning the All-Star trophies gave us a special opportunity to create event awards worthy of the energy and excitement the moment creates, while introducing the full collection’s visual, aesthetic language.

‘The occasion also gave us the privilege and responsibility to develop an entirely new silhouette worthy of being named “The Kobe Bryant Trophy” for the Kia NBA All-Star MVP for which, in the spirit of its namesake, we threw out all conventions and challenged ourselves to reorient how we thought about “the game.”‘

The honor comes more than two years after Kobe, 41, and daughter Gigi, 13, died with seven others in a January 26, 2020 helicopter crash in Calabasas, California along with pilot Ara Zobayan, 50, Alyssa Altobelli, 14, Keri Altobelli, 46, John Altobelli, 56, Payton Chester, 13, Sarah Chester, 46, and Christina Mauser, 38.

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