Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu speaks at Kobe Bryant memorial, makes NCAA history on same day

Monday was a day Sabrina Ionescu won’t forget.

The star guard for No. 3 Oregon began the day in Los Angeles, where she spoke at the memorial service for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. Ionescu developed a special relationship with Bryant due to her prominence in the women’s game (she’s widely anticipated to be the college basketball player of the year and No. 1 WNBA draft pick this year) and Gianna’s affinity for the game. Ionescu worked out a couple times with “Gigi” last summer, and helped Kobe in coaching his daughter’s team.

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“[Gigi] always wanted to learn and to go to every game she could — college, NBA, WNBA. Kobe was helping her with that because he saw it in her. Just like he saw it in me. His vision for others is always bigger than that for themselves. His vision for me was way bigger than my own. More importantly, he didn’t just show up in my life and leave — he stayed,” Ionescu told the audience.

Afterward, she flew back up to the Bay Area for a big game against No. 4 Stanford. All the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles did was add another one — 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists as the Ducks defeated Stanford 74-66. It marks her 26th career triple-double.

And in the process, Ionescu became the first men’s or women’s Division I player to get 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

“It was for [Kobe],” Ionescu told ESPN after the game. “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.”

On Twitter — where she states, “Just pray – God is good” — Ionescu marveled at symmetry of it all:

Now, Ionescu and the Ducks turn their attention to the final two regular-season games of the year, then the PAC 12 and NCAA Tournaments. After a Final Four appearance last year, Ionescu could have left for the WNBA but returned for her senior season to take care of some “unfinished business.”

And she does so while playing for Christ. Ionescu told Sports Spectrum Magazine for its Spring 2019 issue that her Romanian background and her identity in Christ have given her the confidence to accomplish as much as she has. Ionescu was raised by two Christian parents but it wasn’t until middle school that she truly began to understand what it meant to be a follower of Christ. The increased independence of college life in Eugene has only served to deepen her faith.

“I love my teammates, love my coaches,” Ionescu says. “I do everything for them and try to have Christ live through me, and help those that need helping.”

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