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He Bonded With Kobe as a Competitor, Then as Another #GirlDad

MacKenly might have been the 6-foot-tall daughter of a former 6-foot-9 N.B.A. star, but Bryant promised nothing. She was not granted a starting spot right away — not even with Team Mamba in need of a center. Practices were often held Monday through Friday in Orange County, where most of the team’s players lived, meaning that MacKenly was expected to make the long commute from the San Fernando Valley. After practices, she had to run extra to “catch up to the other girls,” as Zach recalled Bryant saying.

None of that, though, stopped Randolph from calling it “a perfect fit.”

“Like a puzzle, man,” Randolph said. “My daughter was just so ecstatic. It’s all she talked about.”

He said MacKenly was “mesmerized”; MacKenly said he was exaggerating. Though she said she was “super nervous” at first about being coached by Bryant, “After like a week it was, ‘Oh, he’s just a regular person.’ ” While some of the girls on the team called him “Coach Bryant,” MacKenly said she “really just called him Kobe.”

Where father and daughter readily concur: Bryant helped MacKenly improve immediately.

“I work with her a lot, but you could tell the difference with Kobe,” Zach said. “When Kobe was speaking, he didn’t have to say, ‘Pay attention.’ ”

“He basically taught me how to play defense and how to rotate,” MacKenly said.

Asked to describe Bryant’s coaching demeanor, MacKenly added: “You would know when he’s mad, or he’s not playing around, but he would never, like, yell at you.”

The pandemic has delayed the start of MacKenly’s freshman season at Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, Calif., but her game continues to develop. Even though MacKenly shoots right-handed and Zach is a lefty, comparisons to her father’s combination of strength, guile and a deft scoring touch inside are frequent. Such is MacKenly’s potential that she has received verbal scholarship offers from Louisville and Arizona before playing a single high school game.

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