Gianna Bryant, Payton Chester, Alyssa Altobelli Named Honorary WNBA Draft Picks

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 17, 2020

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Connecticut and Houston, Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill/Associated Press

The WNBA recognized Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester as honorary draft picks during Friday's selection show.

Per Graham Hays of ESPN.com, the WNBA had previously announced plans to honor the girls during the draft, which is being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three teenagers were among nine killed in a helicopter crash in southern California on January 26.

Former Los Angeles Lakers guard/forward Kobe Bryant, Payton's mom Sarah Chester, Alyssa's parents John and Keri Altobelli, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan also died in the crash.

The group was traveling to an AAU girls basketball game at Kobe Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in southern California.

Chicago Sky forward Gabby Williams, who was Gianna's favorite player, told Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press about her game:

"She had the right mentality, so confident, relentless, so mean and aggressive. And then (she would) walk off the court with the biggest, sweetest smile on her face. But my favorite part about her was just seeing how much she loved the game and loved to learn...

"It's intimidating to have to follow in those footsteps, but she really embraced it."

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Chester's uncle, Andy George, told Fred Robledo of the Orange Country Register about his niece:

"She had this sweetest soul, the kindest, most gentlest person you would ever meet. She always had a huge smile on her face. Every time we would see her she would spend all her time with my little daughters.

"She enjoyed every minute of being there for them, and in basketball, she worked so hard at it. She was good, she had a big future ahead for her. It's just so devastating."

Over 500 people attended a candlelight vigil for Altobelli in Newport Beach, California on Jan. 30, per Erika I. Ritchie of the Orange County Register.

Altobelli had hopes of playing ball at the University of Oregon, the collegiate home of this year's No. 1 overall draft pick and triple-double machine Sabrina Ionescu.

Ionescu, who developed a friendship with the Bryants and spoke at Kobe and Gianna's Celebration of Life in February, will be playing professionally with the New York Liberty.