The WNBA star remembers Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant one year after their untimely deaths

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Sabrina Ionescu is sharing how Kobe Bryant's memory continues to inspire her, one year after his untimely death.

The 23-year-old New York Liberty point guard — who was a mentee of Kobe's and delivered an emotional speech at the memorial service held for the Bryants at the Staples Center last February — told Yahoo! Sports his legacy motivates her in the WNBA, today.

One year ago, on Jan. 26, 2020, Kobe and his daughter Gianna (plus Sarah and Payton ChesterChristina MauserJohn Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa Altobelli) were on their way to a basketball game in a helicopter piloted by Ara Zobayan that ultimately crashed in Calabasas, California. At the time, Kobe was 41, and Gianna was 13.

"I carry Kobe and Gigi with me every day and honor their legacies through my dedication to the game," said Ionescu. "I wake up every day grateful for the platform I've been given and I strive to lead by example and serve as a role model for young people and especially girls to pursue sports — a platform Kobe and Gigi were passionate about."

"I saw the way he supported his family and his constant advocacy for women's basketball," she continued. "His encouragement and promotion of equality in sports along with his Mamba Mentality is what motivates me today."

Sabrina Ionescu; Kobe Bryant
Sabrina Ionescu and Kobe Bryant
| Credit: Travis Bell/NBAE via Getty Images; Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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In an Instagram tribute days after the fatal crash, Ionescu remembered Kobe as "a source of light in the midst of darkness," adding that she misses them "more than I could ever put into words."

"You were and always will be my sanctuary. You brought me the peace and guidance that I had been searching, and praying so long for," she wrote at the time. "You were my mentor, idol, inspiration, and close friend. A part of me was lost Sunday, a void that can never be filled, because you are one of one. You took me under your wing and believed in me more than I believed in myself."

"I only have one choice," she continued at the time. "To live out your legacy. You will forever live through me, and be watching over me every step of the way, because you have the best seat in the house. I can still hear you telling me, 'Sab, real sharpness comes without effort,' and that's a voice I will never forget. Love you boss."