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Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli, Payton Chester honorary WNBA draft picks

The league honored the three teens who were among the nine killed, including Kobe Bryant, in the January crash.
In this July 26, 2018 file photo former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch during the U.S. national championships swimming meet in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

NEW YORK (TEGNA/AP) — Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester were honored by the WNBA on the league's draft night Friday. The teenagers were among the nine people who died in the Southern California helicopter accident on Jan. 26, including Kobe Bryant, Gianna's father.

Before the start of the draft, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced their names as jerseys were shown on the screen, with each of the three players on them.

“I think it was a very beautiful thing that the WNBA did to be able to draft those three girls,” no. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu said. “They deserved it. I know they’re looking down and smiling and really excited.”

The Oregon star may have been selected first in the draft, as expected, but when she’ll play for the New York Liberty is unclear. With sports on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was a draft like no other with players in their own homes instead of a central location.

Engelbert announced selections from her home in New Jersey, holding up the jersey of the player being chosen.

The Indiana Fever made three selections in the draft, picking forward Lauren Cox from Baylor, guard Kathleen Doyle from Iowa and James Madison guard Kamiah Smalls.

The league also announced Friday the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award. The award will recognize significant contributions made to women's and girls' basketball at all levels.