Sports is One Way Men Celebrate Being “Girl Dads”

The news of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gigi has many people reeling. There is a collective sadness when someone so young and so talented is taken way too soon. For many sports fans the loss feels personal, but whether or not you’re a sports fan, you can’t help but be moved by the many pictures of Kobe and his four young daughters, and by the video clips of him talking about a father’s love for his girls.

Kobe Bryant talks about his daughter, Gigi

In 2018, Kobe spoke about his daughter, Gianna, wanting to carry on his legacy. (via Jimmy Kimmel Live)

Posted by ESPN on Monday, January 27, 2020

The footage of Kobe and Gigi court-side at an NBA game in December 2019 has captivated me – as I’m sure it has transfixed millions of other parents, in particular, parents of girls who have bonded with their dads over sports.

A daughter can carry on her dad’s legacy.

There is a tired notion that every man hopes he will someday have a son; someone to play catch with, or to kick a ball with in the yard. When a professional athlete goes out of his way to debunk that stereotype, it’s thrilling. In the video that’s been circulating, Kobe mentions that fans come up to him to tell him that he and his wife need to have a son to carry on his legacy. He says Gigi used to respond with, “I got this.”

When a dad who once played a sport or is a huge fan of sports has a daughter who becomes interested in sports, often a very special bond is created. My daughter started off her years of sports participation on a YMCA basketball team at age five when the adorable players could barely throw the ball as high as the lowered baskets, and the post-game snacks were way more important than the score.

Throughout her childhood she played basketball, softball, and volleyball. I can picture her and my husband spending hours on dusty ballfields, as he’d catch for her while she practiced pitching. I can still hear their laughter and her groans. I can still see the group of dads who helped coach some of her teams all those years ago. Encouraging and directing, with patience and pride in their eyes.

My daughter is a Yankees fan because of my husband’s childhood in New York, where his love of baseball started with a trip to Yankee stadium with his grandfather. She is a college sports enthusiast because of his fanatical spirit for his alma mater’s football team and the intensity of yelling at the TV in our house most Saturdays while she was growing up. She’s the first to admit that she arrived at her college decision based marginally on academics and mainly on the school’s elite basketball program.

Over the years, it’s been beautiful watching my husband and daughter bond over sports.

Over the years I have observed my husband and daughter with quiet amazement, discussing things like the sheer beauty of a Derek Jeter double play, or the unbelievable height of a Zion Williamson block. Their mutual love of sports has brought joy to this mother’s heart.

Kobe’s love of the game of basketball intersecting with his love for his daughter was on full display, as he explained some aspect of the game to her. He admitted that watching basketball, the game that had once been his livelihood, had admittedly taken a back seat in his life after he had retired from playing. But once Gigi got into it, he said he embraced watching again as a way to connect and to share his love of the sport with her. We smile at a father’s joy simply watching his daughter play a sport she enjoys.

We love to see dads offering to coach the girls’ teams and share their lessons of strategy and words of encouragement. We love to see that dad in the stands who knows every move of his daughter’s cheer routine, simply from the countless times he’s watched her perform. We love that sports can bring together a sulky teenager and her father, ending in ecstatic, victorious shouts or in shared despair over a team loss.

Sports provide some wonderful life lessons for both girls and boys, and an opportunity to be a part of a team or a community of fans. The unique bond that can develop between a dad and a daughter over a shared love of sports holds a special place in many of our hearts.

May Kobe Bryant’s family, friends, and fans always hold that unique connection he had with Gigi in their loving memories.

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About Marybeth Bock

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to a college student, recent grad and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as an Army wife, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing Find her on Facebook

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