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Nancy Lieberman: Kobe Bryant ‘meant so much to all of us in women’s sports’

PUBLISHED May 21, 2020 | News

Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman opened up about her relationship with Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and how she has reflected on their lives in the nearly four months since their tragic deaths in an interview with CBS Los Angeles on Thursday. Lieberman referred to Kobe as curious and inquisitive, something fans were seeing amplified in the second half of his career as he explored creative outlets.

She notably emphasized his advocacy for women in sports and his support for equality:

“He meant so much to all of us in women’s sports because he was so respected and people listened. And, the father he was, the person he was, had an effect on others,” she said.

Lieberman explained that a few days before Kobe’s death, overheard two Fox Sports colleagues talking about recent comments Kobe made about women being able to play in the NBA. After hearing the two men, former NBA players Cedric Ceballos and Greg Buckner, call the idea “crazy,” Lieberman suggested they see what Kobe had to say on the subject.

She texted him asking, “Kobs, do you want to talk about women playing against men in the NBA.” When he said “yes,” and she asked when he would like to discuss it, the five-time champion said, “Now.”

Here’s what Kobe wrote to Lieberman:

“They absolutely could… Doesn’t mean they need too but f— the level of disrespect because they are women are so normal. Dudes think they can just overpower them, it’s bulls— and frustrating as hell. NBA players would get served up let alone some weekend warrior.”

Lieberman knows firsthand that women can run with NBA players on the court. She did so with the Lakers in the Summer League under Pat Riley, and the Jazz in Summer League under Frank Layden and in the USBL.

Lieberman noted that she was close with Kobe right up until his death. The day before Kobe, Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter accident in California, she was invited by the NBA legend to come put his daughter’s team through practice.

“We had so many conversations, up until two days before he died we were texting each other and he asked me to come out to L.A., stay with them and fly over with Gianna and him to the Mamba Academy to put the team through practice,” she said.

When the hall of famer got the news of Kobe and Gianna’s death was in complete shock.

“I about fell to my knees… I was wailing. I couldn’t breathe,” Leiberman said.

Bryant was selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame shortly after his death.