On Sunday, Jan. 26, NBA basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna Bryant, were killed in a tragic helicopter crash. The pilot, two of Gianna’s teammates, three parents, and a coach of the girls’ basketball team — that Bryant also coached — were also reported dead from the accident. All those traveling were on their way to the Mamba Cup, a basketball tournament named after Bryant for his support of youth basketball.
Kody Dwyer, a redshirt junior for the Minot State men’s basketball team, was shocked when he found out the news.
“I didn’t believe it right away. My teammates and I were floored for like five minutes, we just sat in silence for a bit,” Dwyer said.
Bryant was an accomplished NBA star who played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 seasons. Bryant won five NBA Championships, was an 18-time All Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, named MVP in 2008, and was a two-time NBA Finals MVP. This caused a lot of hate for Bryant on the court from opposing teams’ fans.
“Throughout his whole career, I was kind of a Kobe Bryant hater. On the court, the amount of times he tore your heart out was countless. Being so frustrated at how great he was, that was my hatred,” Dwyer admits. “I never hated him as a person, though. Seeing him in his last game score 60 points, and after his retirement and being a dad and supporting his family, he seemed happier being a dad than being a basketball player. That is really cool to me.”
Off the court though, there was nothing but respect for Bryant as a person. He was known for his “Mamba Mentality,” which exhibited his work ethic and passion for the sport and people he loved in his life.
“His dedication to the craft is something that every basketball player can admire, especially at the level that we play at, everybody is super serious about their craft. Just seeing how serious he took it and the level that he got to skill-wise in every facet of the game was inspiring,” Dwyer said.
The Lakers organization has been paying their respects with KB patches on the jerseys and paid tribute to Bryant before the first Lakers home game after the accident. Outside the Lakers, many other teams have also shown their respect, like the Brooklyn Nets who saved courtside seats where Kobe and his daughter used to sit.
“A lot of teams have done tributes to Kobe by taking an eight-second backcourt violation and a 24-second shot clock violation. In his career, Kobe wore both the numbers 24 and 8,” Dwyer stated.
As the basketball community mourns Bryant’s death — along with his up-and-coming daughter who may have been the next Kobe Bryant in female form — many have been inspired by what he did as a father and as a coach and mentor for women’s basketball.
“I’ve seen a lot of people on social media using the hashtag #girldad and how proud they are to be that. It’s made everybody happier and realize how blessed they are to have the family that they have,” Dwyer said.
The reality of the accident has brought the basketball community together to remember Kobe and Gianna Bryant and to emphasize the importance of what truly matters in our lives.
“Everybody has always talked about who is the greatest player of all time, but now people are saying it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter; we’re all here trying to do the same thing so you might as well battle on the court, but off the court be friends because you never know when something like that is going to happen,” Dwyer said.