On January 26 at 10:00 AM Pacific time, Kobe Bryant, the 18 time NBA all-star, and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash into a hillside of Calabasas, California.
Kobe and his 13-year old daughter Gianna Bryant were heading to a basketball game at the Mamba Sports Academy in which Gianna was expected to play. All the way from California, Kobe’s loss deeply affected the basketball community here in Athens.
Forward Quincy Canty found himself at a loss for words after learning of the passing of his NBA idol and five time champion Kobe Bryant.
“It’s unreal because he’s had such a huge impact on everybody, the whole basketball community, especially the people in the NBA,” Canty said. “This hit everybody hard and you don’t believe it at first because it’s Kobe Bryant and you wouldn’t expect anything like that to happen to him. Even after watching all the games yesterday and seeing all the player reactions, it still doesn’t seem real.”
Canty has been watching Kobe since he was six years old. His favorite memory was Kobe’s famous 81 point game against the Raptors in 2006.
“Growing up playing basketball you learn about the history and the past games. After seeing Wilt Chamberlain dropping 100, I didn’t think anyone would get close to that, but to see him get 81 and make it look so easy was really something special,” Canty said.
Head varsity basketball coach L’Dreco Thomas also felt shock and disbelief.
“I’ve been a Lakers fan since I was a kid and learning of his passing put me in a place of disbelief. When I first learned of the news I was confused and devastated and at the same time hoping it wasn’t true,” Thomas said. “Learning that his daughter was also on the plane with seven others just added onto the pain. Kobe did a lot for me, his constant drive to be the best and work ethic is something I admire and will pass on to the next generation.”
After the end of his basketball career, Kobe created the Mamba Academy to support both boys and girls to pursue their dreams. Kobe also argued for equal pay for women in the WNBA, inspiring many Lady Jags at Cedar Shoals.
Freshman Jane Michael has been a long time Kobe fan and was emotional discussing what Kobe meant to her and the sport she plays.
“Kobe gave an all out effort on the court, and I’m always trying my100-percent best in practices and putting 100-percent effort into the drills whether I’m tired or not,” Michael said. “He was a big component for women’s basketball and I really admire that about Kobe.”
For Lady Jags head basketball coach TaKesha Wall, Kobe had a lasting effect on the mindset she played with and now coaches with, too.
“When I first heard of the news we were on the bus getting ready UGA game and then the kids were talking about it. We were born in the same year, so it’s almost like we grew up together,” Coach Wall said. “He did a lot for both boys and girls basketball, creating an academy and supporting the equal pay for women in all sports. Kobe will forever be inspirational, and I think we are all going to miss his compassion and thoughtfulness the most.”
The boys and girls basketball teams at Cedar Shoals will hold a spirited tribute to Kobe Bryant on senior night this Friday. The student section will be wearing purple and gold, the Los Angeles Lakers’ colors, in tribute to Kobe.
“Thank you Kobe, this is for you,” sophomore point guard Kashik Brown said.