WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu paid tribute to her mentor and close friend, Kobe and Gigi Bryant before taking the court for the NY Liberty on Thursday ... by rocking a split Lakers/Mamba Academy jersey to the game.
23-year-old Sabrina -- like countless others -- idolized Kobe ... but was fortunate enough to develop a personal friendship with the late Lakers legend during her days at Oregon.
In fact, Ionescu says Kobe would call her every week to break down game footage and give advice ... which helped as she went on to average nearly 20 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists a game and become the #1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
Sabrina even helped coach Gigi at Bryant's youth basketball camp ... where she became closer to the budding hoops prodigy.
Ionescu was able to share her memories and the impact the Bryants left on her life during Kobe's memorial last year ... giving a powerful speech.
Sabrina continued her tribute before the Liberty faced off against the Phoenix Mercury ... sporting the amazing custom threads as she headed into the locker room before the big playoff game.
The game was wild -- the Mercury ended up pulling away with the 83-82 victory ... with Ionescu scoring 14 points, 5 rebounds and 11 assists in the effort.
Vanessa Bryant acknowledged Ionescu's tribute on social media ... sharing her pic and adding a pair of hearts.