Oregon basketball star Sabrina Ionescu spent her Monday morning paying tribute to Kobe Bryant as one of many speakers at the Los Angeles Lakers legend’s memorial service. She spent her Monday night doing the same thing on the court.
Ionescu entered the NCAA record books yet again on Monday against No. 4 Stanford with her ninth rebound of the night, the 1,000th of her career.
Sabrina Ionescu makes NCAA history
That board made her the first player in college basketball history — man or woman — to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in her career.
— Oregon Women’s Basketball (@OregonWBB) February 25, 2020
It’s hardly the first time Ionescu has reached a milestone in her career, but that collection of her numbers — as well her NCAA record 26 triple-doubles — perfectly captures the well-roundedness of her game that has made her one of the biggest stars in women’s basketball as an amateur.
Ionescu would eventually finish with 21 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds in a 74-66 Oregon win, clinching a share of the Pac-12 regular season title. It was her eighth triple-double of the season, tying her own NCAA record set last year.
To make an epic night even more impressive, Oregon head coach Kelly Graves revealed that Ionescu did it all while fighting the flu.
Ionescu’s bond with Kobe and Gianna Bryant
After the game, Ionescu dedicated her performance to the man she eulogized hours ago.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) February 25, 2020
Ionescu shared a strong personal relationship with both Kobe and Gianna Bryant, dating back to when the elder Bryant once took Gianna and friends to one of Ionescu’s games at Oregon. Ionescu would go onto train with the pair and help coach Bryant’s team.
She posted a lengthy tribute to the pair after their deaths last month, pledging to personally live out their legacy.
That relationship was further shown hours before the game at the Staples Center memorial service, where Ionescu spoke about Bryant’s impact on women’s basketball.
"I wanted to be a part of the generation that changed basketball for Gigi and her teammates. Where being born female didn't mean being born behind."
Sabrina Ionescu pic.twitter.com/HaaJEhHFbp
— AJ McCord (@AJ_McCord) February 24, 2020
“I wanted to be a part of the generation that changed basketball for Gigi and her teammates,” Ionescu said. “Where being born female didn’t mean being born behind, where greatness wasn’t divided by gender.”
“‘You have too much to give to stay silent.’ That’s what he said. That’s what he believed. That’s what he lived. Through Gigi, through me, through his investment in women’s basketball. That was his next great act, a girl dad.”
Ionescu is widely expected to be selected first overall in the upcoming WNBA draft, and seems well on track to becoming the kind of global star that can expand the reach of women’s basketball. Just like Kobe would have wanted.
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