WNBA Announces Chris Paul as Inaugural Winner of Kobe and Gigi Bryant Advocacy Award

The WNBA and Vanessa Bryant will present the Phoenix Suns point guard with the award at the 2022 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday

Chris Paul #3 of Team LeBron walks onto the court during NBA All Star Practice as part of 2022 NBA All Star Weekend on Friday, February 19, 2022 at Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Photo: Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty

The WNBA has named Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul as the first winner of its Kobe and Gigi Bryant Advocacy Award.

The 12-time All-Star, 36, earned the honor "for his significant contributions to the advancement of girls' and women's basketball, and advocacy for the WNBA," according to a press release from the organization.

The annual award, named after Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna (nicknamed Gigi), is bestowed upon individuals "who use their time, talent, and platform to raise awareness for the WNBA, and women's and girls' basketball in various ways," as Kobe did prior to his death in 2020.

The WNBA and Vanessa Bryant will present Paul the award at the 2022 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland on Sunday.

As noted in the release, Paul is a "devoted fan of the WNBA and the Phoenix Mercury" and has "consistently demonstrated a unique level of support" by regularly attending WNBA regular season and playoffs and "using his public platforms to highlight the on-court successes and stories of WNBA players as well as their leadership in the community through their fight for social justice."

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"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," said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

"The league is proud to name Chris as the inaugural recipient of the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award," she added, "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."

Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns looks on and smiles during the game against the Utah Jazz on January 24, 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty

Paul, a North Carolina native, has long shown his support for women's basketball, especially the WNBA. In 2021, the veteran point guard and Suns center Deandre Ayton showed their support for the Phoenix Mercury both online and in person during the team's WNBA Finals playoff run.

In addition to forging relationships with players of all ages in the WNBA, Paul also supports youth girls' basketball at various camps and through his CP3 Basketball Academy.

Paul is also known for wearing the league's signature orange sweatshirt made famous by Kobe in December 2019 while attending a Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Lakers game with his daughter.

The WNBA said in Sunday's release that the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy 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."

"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," the league said. "Gigi loved the game of basketball and aspired to reach the pinnacle of the sport like her father."

The release also highlighted Kobe's contributions to growing women's basketball "at every level," which he accomplished 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."

Kobe was also involved with Her Time to Play, an initiative developed by the WNBA and NBA that is "dedicated to championing change on behalf of girls and women and providing them with ways to connect, collaborate, and actively engage with one another through the game of basketball," per the league.

The WNBA said on Sunday that it will donate to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which is "dedicated to creating a positive impact for underserved athletes and boys and girls in sports," according to the nonprofit's website.

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