Few anecdotes better encapsulate just who WNBA rookie Sabrina Ionescu is than the story of Feb. 24.
A longtime mentee of Kobe Bryant‘s, University of Oregon’s star point guard was tapped to serve as one of eight speakers at his and Gianna Bryant‘s public memorial. Stepping to the mic just after nine-time league All-Star Diana Taurasi and ahead of the likes of Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, the college senior delivered a rousing speech about how 13-year-old Gianna, already a basketball phenom with UConn aspirations, had been the “future” of the women’s game.
“I wanted to be a part of the generation that changed basketball for Gigi and her teammates,” she announced to the crowd of 20,000 and the millions more watching at home or surreptitiously on office computer screens. “Where being born female didn’t mean being born behind, where greatness wasn’t divided by gender.”
Then Ionescu caught a flight 350 miles north and recorded yet another triple-double against fourth-ranked Stanford en route to becoming the first college player in the history of the NCAA to cross the 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists record. As in, no one had ever done it before. Ever.