Between the tears falling from the collective eyes of the sports community and world at large following the premature death of Kobe Bryant, a slight smile has briefly emerged.
The #girldad movement has taken a strong online presence in the past few days, a viral hashtag born from Bryant’s compassion for his daughters Natalia, Bianka, Capri and Gianna –– Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter who died in the same California helicopter crash that claimed a total of nine lives.
Bryant’s outspoken love and support for his daughters has been an oft-discussed light during the dark fallout of his death, and hundreds of thousands of fathers –– including a slew of Buckeyes –– have taken to social media to share their pride in fathering daughters of their own in solidarity.
The list of participants in the touching posts range not only from NBA associates such as Chris Bosh, but countless day-to-day fathers and even Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.
— gene smith (@OSU_AD) January 30, 2020
The Buckeyes’ linebackers coach Al Washington followed suit, writing a message on Twitter with four accompanying photos of himself and his young daughter on Wednesday.
“No one in this world can love a girl more than her father. So thankful to be a #girldad,” Washington’s post said.
On “Sportscenter,” ESPN’s Elle Duncan shared her first and only experience meeting Bryant while backstage at an event in New York. Duncan was pregnant, which sparked a conversation with Bryant about his three daughters at the time.
“I’d have five more girls if I could,” Duncan said Bryant told her. “I’m a girl dad.”
— Al Washington (@CoachWash56) January 30, 2020
Bryant was the coach of Gianna’s basketball team –– the Mamba Lady Mavericks –– and the pair were reportedly en route to the team’s practice when their helicopter crashed Sunday.
Ohio State assistant athletic director for player personnel Mark Pantoni got in on the act as well, sharing a photo with his daughter on Tuesday with a caption reading, “Very proud to be a #girldad.”
Jared Sullinger, an All-American forward for the Buckeyes in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, played for the NBA’s Boston Celtics for four seasons while Bryant closed out his career. Sullinger added a #girldad post of his own, as did older brother J.J. Sullinger, who played three seasons for the Buckeyes from 2003 to ’06.
— Jared Sullinger Sr. (@Jared_Sully0) January 29, 2020
It might not be a silver lining, but if ever there were a cause for Bryant –– a proud father of four girls in an industry full of paired down gender stereotypes and an emphasis on machismo –– to smile upon, it would be the public display of pride in fatherhood among the countless girl dads across the globe.