Azzi Fudd is the No. 1 ranked junior in the nation. Even at her young age, the list of her accolades is very long. As all basketball fans in the world, she was shocked to hear about the deaths of Kobe And Gigi Bryant.
“My first thought was Gigi. I couldn’t imagine how she was feeling,” Fudd explained how she felt on that tragic day. “She just lost her dad and mentor and coach. I knew I had to text her but I didn’t know what to say so I decided to wait until after our game to reach out to her.”
But then, the news that Gigi was also in the helicopter arrived.
“I could not stop crying,” Fudd remembers. “Heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe it. It didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t. Just thinking of it now makes me tear up. It was too much.”
Azzi was devastated not only as a player but also on a more personal level. She met Kobe and Gigi in 2018. That year, on Steph Curry’s camp, she has won a three-point competition against Jalen Green, among others. Kobe started following her on Instagram and soon invited her to train with Gigi’s team at Mamba Academy. Fudd was impressed with Gigi’s game: “Her basketball IQ was off the charts for a player that age. She saw the floor so well and was a fierce competitor like her dad.”
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Azzi spent a whole week practicing with Mambas. She developed a close relationship with both Kobe and Gigi. She was convinced that Gigi was on the road to greatness.
“I really respected her determination and drive to be great,” Fudd said. “You don’t see that in a lot of players. She didn’t need to have that drive but she did and it just goes to show how much she wanted it.”
The news of their deaths was heartbreaking. Azzi had a very important game but missed it to attend the memorial service. “Even though it was a big game for us, I wouldn’t have missed the service for anything,” she said. “It was so beautiful and so emotional. I just can’t believe how many lives Kobe and Gigi have touched. I was really glad I got to be there.”
In their honor, Azzi adopted the “Mamba Mentality”.
“I’m just going to keep that killer mentality in mind when I’m playing and push my teammates to play with the same mentality,” Fudd said. “Kobe taught me to never back down and keep my goals in mind when I get tired.”