NBA legend Pau Gasol named recipient of 2023 Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award

NEW YORK  Today, the WNBA announced that NBA legend and six-time All-Star Pau Gasol has been named the recipient of the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award for his significant contributions to the advancement of girls’ and women’s basketball, and advocacy for the WNBA. Pau Gasol is the second recipient of the award after Chris Paul was named the inaugural recipient in 2022. The WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and Vanessa Bryant will present Gasol the award during the NBA All-Star 2023 Game in Utah on Sunday, February 19, 2023.

The Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy award aims to honor advocates and influencers who use their time, talent, and platform to raise awareness for the WNBA, and women’s and girls’ basketball in various ways, like Kobe was so committed to doing. Kobe Bryant was a major contributor and mentor for the growth of the women’s game at every level, helping train middle school, high school, college, and WNBA players. The Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award highlights Kobe’s legacy as a coach and mentor and Gigi’s inspirational, relentless commitment to playing at the highest levels of the game.

“I’m so pleased that Pau has been chosen to receive this award.  Pau has done so much to promote women and girls in sports and cares deeply about spreading a message of equality, which was so important to Kobe and Gianna,” said Vanessa Bryant, Chair of the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a positive impact for underserved athletes and boys and girls in sports. “We are grateful to the WNBA and Pau for continuing to honor Kobe and Gianna in this way,” said Bryant.

“Through his work in the community and his support as a WNBA investor, Pau has shown to be a longtime advocate in his career for the league and women’s sports advocate, helping to carry on the legacy of Kobe and Gigi,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “Pau serves as a leader for women’s basketball at the national team level and has been a vocal advocate for the prioritization of women in professional and coaching pipelines. Pau is a role model for other male athletes and the league is proud to name him as the 2023 recipient of the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award.”

On behalf of Pau, the WNBA will make a donation to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.

Gasol, an investor in the WNBA’s recent capital raise, the largest ever for a women’s sports property, has been a strong advocate for giving women opportunities in sports, which aligns with Her Time to Play, an initiative created by the WNBA and NBA dedicated to championing girls basketball and increasing opportunities for women in coaching and athletic leadership. Gasol has been vocal about the inclusivity of female coaches in the NBA, publishing a Player’s Tribune article about diversity and equality in sports. He was recently identified as a FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 ambassador and was elected as an IOC member of the Athlete’s Commission.

“It is an honor to receive this distinction, which makes me especially happy because it represents two people who are and will always be in my heart,” said Pau Gasol.  “Kobe’s work, especially during his later years, to support women’s sports is an excellent example of where we must direct our efforts to ensure full equality in sports.”

Gasol, a familiar face at WNBA games, is a large vocal supporter of the athletes of the league and what they stand for, and his public advocacy has increased the league’s viewership, sponsorship and investment.

Alongside his brother Marc, the brothers started the Gasol Foundation, which aims to reduce child obesity rates by promoting physical activity, healthy eating, sleep quality and emotional wellbeing.