"We will always remember her will to make things better," Harbor Day Student Council officials said

By Robyn Merrett
February 06, 2020 12:05 AM
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Gianna Bryant‘s middle school Harbor Day is paying tribute to the late 13-year-old, who was a rising basketball star, by retiring her jersey.

Gianna’s mom Vanessa Bryant shared a plethora of videos of the touching ceremony — captioning them “Gianna Bryant’s Jersey Retirement,” which began with a message from members of Harbor Day Student Council.

The group, who revealed Gianna was a member of student council, spoke fondly of her desire to “make things better” as they stood alongside a bouquet of heart-shaped balloons and table adorned with a flower arrangement in the shape of the number 2 — which Gianna wore proudly as a player on both the Mamba Sports Academy and Harbor Day basketball team.

“In the 7th grade when she said she’d run for student council I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to hear and see what she would do to help elevate our student population. We gave her one assignment and she ran with it as quickly and as eagerly as anyone I’ve ever seen. Gianna was an amazing leader in our student council. We will always remember her will to make things better and to strive for excellence,” the student council faculty advisor said before turning the floor to two students who serve on the council.

“She had big dreams and visions of bringing the school together, uniting upper school students with lower school students and uniting boys with girls,” one of the students shared before revealing some programs Gianna worked to create, including a program where students could participate in sports activities during recess.

“She truly gave everything she could give,” the second student began. “She brought unique ideas we never would have thought of without her. She led by example. One thing incredibly impressive about her was that she would never wait for change, she was the change. She would inspire change in teachers and friends.”

In the next video that Vanessa shared, a number of 6th and 7th graders at Harbor Day gathered on the gym floor to sing a rendition of Maroon 5’s “Memories.”

Adam Levine later shared the clip captioning it “It’s important to cry. It’s important to sing. It’s important to love so hard and hold on so tightly for as long as we can. Now more than ever. #GIRLDAD.”

“I chose that song because I intend to keep Gianna with us and in our special way — through all that we do,” Harbor Day’s Upper School music teacher said, fighting back tears.

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Gianna and Kobe Bryant
| Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty

“I taught Gianna since she was in the 5th grade. This is a person who never slung mud. Talking bad about others — I never heard her do that. She was always above that. She didn’t engage in trivial conversations that were not positive. She stayed positive. That’s something I’ve always remembered about her. She never came to school and bragged. She was one of the most humble people I’ve ever known,” the music teacher added.

In a different video Vanessa shared, Harbor Day’s Physical Education teachers also spoke of memories she shared with Gianna.

“Gigi was one of the fiercest competitors I’d ever seen,” one coach said. “She definitely represented the ‘Mamba Mentality’ every time she stepped on the floor.”

“The most important thing is to try to inspire people around you so they can be whatever they want to be in life,” the coach said, quoting Gianna’s father, NBA legend Kobe Bryant who died alongside the 13-year-old in a horrific helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

In the last video, Gianna’s jersey is officially retired.

“Today we honor as a student and as an athlete. As a coach, we always want to find and coach students who are committed, dedicated and passionate about a sport. Gianna was all of these. She was determined to learn everything she could about the sport of basketball and worked as hard as possible to develop her basketball skills,” the Harbor Day School faculty member said.

“Today we are retiring Gianna’s basketball jersey to commemorate her athleticism and caring spirit that she shared with us. She will be the last person to wear the number 2 for the basketball team. We hope that when you look at her jersey hanging in our gym you will remember Gianna and be inspired to work hard.”

Vanessa later shared a photo of Gianna’s framed jersey writing, “My Gigi. I love you! I miss you. You’ve taught us all that no act of kindness is ever too small. Mommy is still and will ALWAYS be so proud of you mamacita. ❤️#2 ?”

The posts come after Vanessa first shared a photo of the gymnasium, where the ceremony was held, as she remembered her daughter’s “amazing smile.”

Gianna Bryant
Gianna Bryant
| Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

“My Gianna,” Vanessa began. “God I miss you. I’ve been so lucky to have woken up to see your gorgeous face and amazing smile for 13 years. Wish it would’ve been until my last breath.”

“Mommy loves you to the moon and back. Infinity plus 1,” Vanessa continued, adding the hashtags “#2 #Mambacita #GigiBryant.”

In addition to the jersey retirement ceremony by her school, the Mamba Sports Academy released a new match that the team will wear in honor of Gianna, Bryant, Mauser (who a basketball coach at Harbor Day), Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester.

“Never been prouder to be on Team Mamba,” the academy tweeted alongside an image of the patch. “In commemoration of their coaches and teammates, Team Mamba will wear this path on their uniforms.”

Mamba Sports Academy launched in 2018 as a joint business venture in holistic athletic training between the NBA legend and Sports Academy’s CEO Chad Faulkner.

Gianna’s dream school University of Connecticut also paid tribute to the late 13-year-old.

At UConn’s basketball game on the Monday following the crash, a seat was reserved on the team bench for Gianna.

UConn created a special Huskies jersey with Gianna’s No. 2 emblazoned on the front, which was laid next to a bouquet of white roses and daisies tied with a blue bow.

Gianna Bryant
Gianna Bryant
| Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

“Mambacita is forever a Husky,” the team wrote alongside the photo, using Gianna’s nickname.

Since the crash, Vanessa has taken comfort in the many tributes that people have paid to Kobe and Gianna. “Every memorial means something to her,” a source told PEOPLE. “Every memorial is important.”

The source told PEOPLE that Vanessa has a strong support system who is helping her get through the difficult days.

“She’s got people around her who are helping her: physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally,” says the insider. “She has spent the last week surrounded by people who love her and want only the best for her. She’s really being loved and cared for. And so are the girls.”

If you would like to help the families of the victims of the crash, consider donating to the MambaonThree Fund. Contributions to the Mamba Sports Foundation will help support youth sports.