Kobe Bryant's Mentee Sabrina Ionescu Makes History After Speaking at Staples Center Memorial
After speaking at the memorial for her late mentor, 22-year-old Ionescu became the first male or female Division I college basketball player to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds during the Oregon Ducks’ game against the Stanford Cardinals.
While Ionescu reached 2,000 points and 1,000 assists during a previous game this season, when she hit nine rebounds in the third quarter in Monday night’s game, she reached that final mark, surpassing it with a tenth rebound in the fourth quarter, ESPN reported.
Not only did Ionescu reach the milestone after an emotional morning, she was also so sick on Monday that she threw up ahead of the game, and didn’t warm up with the team, ESPN reported.
The Oregon Ducks ultimately won the game 74-66.
After the game, the athlete told ESPN that she did it for Bryant.
“That one was for him,” she told the outlet. “To do it on 2-24-20 is huge. We talked about it in the pre-season. I can’t really put it into words. He’s looking down and really proud of me and just really happy for this moment with my team.”
“If anybody can handle this, it’s Sabrina,” Ionescu’s coach added to the outlet. “To see a guard with 1,000 rebounds, that’s incredible. We may be seeing something we’ll never see again.”
“I tried to do everything I could to hold it together tonight and my team helped me a lot,” she added of the many emotions felt throughout the day.
During the memorial, Ionescu recalled the first time she met Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant, who both died in the helicopter crash in January that also killed seven others.
“He congratulated us on the win that day and our season up to that point but said —and I’ll never forget — ‘Don’t shoot yourselves in the foot,'” she told the crowd at the Staples Center, according to Entertainment Tonight and CBS Sports. “He meant don’t settle, keep grinding, control what you can. The national championship wasn’t far and our goal was to win it all.”
She continued: “If I represented the present of the women’s game, Gigi was the future and Kobe knew it, so we decided to build a future together.”
“His vision for me was way bigger than my own,” she continued of her mentor. “More importantly, he didn’t just show up in my life and leave. He stayed. He was giving me the blueprint. He was giving Gigi the same blueprint. He united us.”