I miss you guys more than I could ever put into words 💔 Kobe, thank you for being a source of light in the midst of darkness.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. 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. 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. Always. Gigi, Alyssa and Pay Pay- Never stop shining your light! I was blessed to have been apart of your lives and to inspire you, but now you inspire me. Keep working on those fade away jumpers up in heaven. RIP little mambas❤️🐍 I pray for everyone who lost a loved one on Sunday, may God heal your broken hearts🙏🏼 Legends never die! #mambamentality🐍A post shared by Sabrina Ionescu (@sabrina_i) on Feb 1, 2020 at 10:02am PSTIn an interview with B/R, Ionescu said this feeling was something she’d never be able to get rid of.”I think it’s going to be one of those things I always feel. I can still think about it anytime and cry,” she told B/R. “I’m not normal yet.”Ionescu revealed to the Times that she still sends messages to Bryant’s phone as well.“I still text him even though he’s not here. ‘Thank you for everything. The rest is for you. Rest easy my guy.’ The last one I sent him said, ‘I miss you, may you rest in peace, my dear friend.’”Feb. 24, 2020: Bryant’s celebration of lifeIonescu was one of the speakers at Kobe’s celebration of life, held at the Staples Center. In her speech, she detailed her friendship with the Lakers legend, his love for the game and his daughter, and his desire to expand the women’s game.”‘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.“Today may feel like darkness. He was, in so many ways, a sun beaming, radiating, fixed in the sky. I ask each of you, every girl dad, every human here with a voice, a platform and a heart to not let this sun set.”Feb. 24, 2020: History for SabrinaAfter speaking at Bryant’s celebration of life that morning — and battling the flu — Ionescu made history as the first NCAA player ever (man or woman) to accumulate 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 rebounds in a career. He did so in the Ducks’ 74-66 win at No. 4 Stanford. Ionescu previously passed the 2,000 points and 1,000 assists milestones, but she entered the game nine rebounds short of 1,000.She made history with 1:50 left in the third quarter.Ionescu also wore sneakers in remembrance of Kobe and Gigi. April 2020: Life after Bryant and college basketballIonescu, now past her collegiate career, is prepping for the 2020 WNBA Draft, where she is widely projected to go No. 1 overall to the New York Liberty.That was a period of adjustment for Ionescu, one in which she realized she would be OK with her support system. Still, she asked for a sign that she would be OK.From her remembrance speech:”The week after the accident, I was in Colorado, I had a game, and like I do before every game, I prayed. This time I was thinking about Kobe and Gigi. His voice is still in my head, even if his body is not on this Earth. And all I wanted was a sign that in some way he still heard me, too. I looked off into the sky and there it was, a beautiful golden sunset. The boldest yellow. Lakers yellow. And further in the distance, a helicopter. There was my sign, that he will forever be with me. View this post on Instagram View this post on Instagram The deaths of Kobe and Gianna in January were devastating for the world, and for Ionescu especially. Then, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic swept through the world, her dreams of leading Oregon to a national championship vanished along with the 2020 NCAA Women’s Tournament. Without Kobe or basketball, Ionescu told Bleacher Report, she felt lost. But even through the pain, she knew Kobe would always be with her.Here is a look at the moments between Kobe and Ionescu that cemented a friendship:MORE: Get to know Sabrina Ionescu, from Oregon career to Kobe friendshipJan. 11, 2019: Ionescu meets BryantIonescu and Bryant first met after “The Black Mamba” attended Oregon’s game at USC — a 95-53 victory for the Ducks. Bryant, alongside daughter Gigi and two of her teammates, sat courtside.Ionescu, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, recalled being told by coaches that there was a surprise for the day and thinking Nike had sent some new shoes. The game started, and Bryant walked in with his daughter Gianna and two of her teammates.”They sat courtside, where my jaw sat dropped,” Ionescu told the Times. “They watched the entire game. And that was the first time I met Kobe.”He congratulated us on the win that day and our season up to that point but said, and I’ll never forget, ‘Don’t shoot yourselves in the foot.’ He meant don’t settle, to keep grinding, control what you can. The national championship wasn’t far, and our goal was to win it all.”Summer 2019: Working out with the BryantsIonescu worked out with Gianna Bryant twice over the summer ahead of the 2019-20 season, even coming down to help Bryant coach her team, the Mamba Ballers. It was only natural that two of the greatest basketball players of their respective generations would find each other. The friendship between Kobe Bryant and Sabrina Ionescu was born out of the dream they shared: to elevate women’s basketball to the national level.Along the way, Ionescu became friends with Kobe’s daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, worked on her game with Kobe and rose to college basketball stardom at Oregon. She would credit Kobe for pushing her, and for being in her life through her victories and defeats. My #mambas @sabrina_i @megwalker3 and @alexbazzell24 #mambamentalityA post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on Aug 10, 2019 at 10:32pm PDT”Gigi had so much of her dad’s skill set. You could tell the amount of hours they spent in the gym, practicing her moves,” Ionescu told the Times. “She smiled all the time, but when it was game time, she was ready to kill. Her demeanor changed almost instantly when the whistle blew.”If I represented the present of the women’s game, Gigi was the future, and Kobe knew it.”Ducks 2019-20 season: Ionescu’s friendship with Kobe growsBryant, Ionescu said, was not only aware of her place in basketball history, but also watched her games and kept in communication with her throughout the season.”We kept in touch, always texting, calls, game visits. I’d drop a triple-double and have a text from him, ‘Another double triple-double I see you’ with a flex emoji,” Ionescu told the Times. “Another game, another text. ‘Yo, Beast Mode,’ or ‘Easy money.’Ionescu also said Bryant coached her on how to improve her level of play while reminding her .“I felt some pressure early on in the season, and he wrote to me, ‘Be you, it’s been good enough, and that will continue to be good enough,'” Ionescu told the Times. “He taught me his stepback; he told me that if I could bring that to my game, it’d be over for any defender trying to guard me.”He told me how high my arc needed to be on my shot, how to angle my foot, which led to kick-out. How much power to push off. ‘Real sharpness comes without effort,’ he said.”Jan. 26, 2020: Bryant’s helicopter crashAn early morning helicopter crash on Jan. 26 killed Kobe and Gigi Bryant alongside seven others who were on the carrier with him. Later that day, Ionescu helped lead the Ducks to a 66-57 victory over rival Oregon State, shooting 6 of 17 from the field and connecting on all seven free throws for 19 points in the win.Ionescu made her first social media post regarding the death of Kobe and Gigi Bryant several days later. I heard his voice in my head, the last line from one of his books: ‘Walk until the darkness is a memory, and you become the sun on the next traveler’s horizon.’” Getty https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/1a/ba/sabrina-ionescu-sneakers-getty-041420-ftr_qjanayspeny91v7qhgnt9ds9u.jpg?t=2040476953&w=500&quality=80 Ionescu said it was special for her to reach the milestone on Feb. 24 (2/24) in honor of both Kobe and Gigi Bryant. Gigi wore No. 2, while Kobe Bryant wore No. 24 for half of his career.”That one was for him,” Ionescu said. “To do it on 2/24/20 is huge. We had talked about it in the preseason. I can’t really put that into words. He’s looking down and really proud of me and just really happy for this moment with my team.”Ionescu also secured her 26th triple-double in the fourth quarter as Oregon clinched the Pac-12 regular-season title with the win. Ionescu finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.