The deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in a helicopter accident in January 2020 was one of the most memorably tragic events in a year that came to be marked by pain and devastation. While the basketball icon’s impact is evident in many aspects of culture, a new one that has come to light is in the realm of baby names.
New data from the Social Security Administration shows the baby name Kobe got a major boost in popularity in 2020. The name jumped up a full 316 spots, from No. 556 in 2019 to 239 in 2020. That makes it the name with the 11th-biggest jump on the boys list in 2020.
At least 1,500 baby boys born in the U.S. last year were named Kobe ― as were 55 baby girls. (Interestingly, the similar name Jakobe had the third-highest increase, rising 544 places from No. 1382 to No. 838.)
The name of Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, who died with her father, also rose in the rankings, going from No. 79 in 2019 to No. 12 last year. In 2020, 7,826 newborn girls (and seven boys) were named Gianna.
The same trend occurred with spelling variations on the late teen’s name. Giana with a single “n” jumped up 110 spots from No. 978 to No. 868 (with 307 newborn Gianas). The name Jianna saw the third-biggest increase from 2019 to 2020 on the girls’ list ― rising 824 spots from No. 1,674 to No. 850.
The naming influence doesn’t just end with the basketball stars we lost. In fact, the name of every member of Bryant’s immediate family got a boost in popularity in some form in 2020.
His eldest daughter Natalia’s name rose 19 spots from No. 103 to No. 84. The name of his youngest daughter, Capri, who was only seven months old when her father and sister died, saw the biggest increase. In fact, Capri ranked just below Jianna in terms of biggest increases for girls’ names, going up 608 spots from No. 1293 to No. 685.
Bryant’s widow Vanessa’s name increased from No. 270 to No. 208 (62 places). And his third daughter’s name Bianka jumped up 30 spots from No. 453 to No. 423.
Meanwhile, the family’s last name, Bryant, also saw a surge ― from the 829th most popular name for boys in 2019 to the 658th in 2020. Last year, 393 baby boys were named Bryant compared to 271 the previous year, and for the first time, the name appeared in the girls’ names data. (The SSA only records names given to five or more babies born and assigned male or female in a given year. For the first time, five girl babies were named Bryant in 2020).
The official SSA data is consistent with trends from baby name websites like BabyCenter, which recorded increased interest in the names Kobe and Gianna among site visitors over the last year.
It’s not uncommon for major news events to impact baby naming trends. The decline of the name Katrina after the famous hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast area in 2005 is one of the most famous examples. Similarly, the name Donald decreased in popularity throughout President Donald Trump’s time in office.
Still, the rise of the Bryant family names following the loss of Kobe and Gianna provides a clear-cut example of this phenomenon in the positive direction.