The unprecedented and tragic death of Kobe Bryant this past Sunday has affected anyone who loves the game of basketball. People have been reflecting on what Bryant meant to them, the game of basketball, and what he meant to the world. As a father of both a son and a daughter, I could only imagine the final moments between Bryant and his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant. As a Fort Wayne native, I absolutely loved coming across this tweet from Indiana Pacers forward Alize Johnson.
I wear 24 because Kobe was a role model growing up. I plan to continue to wear 24 as a tribute of the great respect I will always have for him. No one has asked me to change but if I’m asked I will without hesitation https://t.co/oY5Xo44zQA
— Alize Johnson (@AlizeJohnson) January 28, 2020
It’s safe to say the Fort Wayne Mad Ants have been touched by this tragedy as well. Johnson spends a lot of time with our Mad Ants here in Fort Wayne, so this tweet really touched home. To take a step even further, look at how last night’s game began against the Salt Lake City Stars.
8 for 8. 24 for 24.
— Fort Wayne Mad Ants (@TheMadAnts) January 29, 2020
What a phenomenal way to honor “The Mamba.” Although, players aren’t the only ones having trouble dealing with the loss of a basketball legend:
” I admired Kobe as a player, but I was even more impressed with his dedication to his children. As a parent of two children, watching his involvement in his kids’ lives warmed my heart,” says Mad Ants Team President Tim Bawmann.
Mad Ants head coach Steve Gansey also spoke with me to reflect on his first thoughts after hearing the tragic news about Kobe:
“I was in LA that Sunday and 5 min away from Staples Center. I noticed news helicopters flying above me outside. I was locked in on the TV for a couple hours and heard every report in my hotel room. We left for the airport around 4:30pm that day to Salt Lake. It was extremely sad to hear about the news. It’s tough to not get emotional when you think about this. I can’t imagine what the families are going through right now. Hearing all the stories about Kobe and the rest of the people who died is still heart-breaking. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families involved in this terrible tragedy. I never met Kobe, but it feels like I knew him. It seems as if everyone knew him after these past couple days. Kobe was the ultimate competitor and the guy a coach dreams about having on their team. He brought it every day, in a lot of different categories in life. I have the up-most respect for Kobe and what he did for the basketball world and the people that he impacted in their lives. I will continue to shoot into whatever basket and yell “Kobe” till I die. We should all continue the “Mamba Mentality” every day.”
From Team Presidents, to head coaches and even to players. Bryant touched everyone. Mad Ants guard Walt Lemon Jr. was able to reflect with me on Bryant as well:
“Kobe definitely had a major role in my life. Will always be one of my favorite players. As I grew up I had my phases of favorite players. And started just watching guys that played the same position as I did. But Kobe definitely is one of my all time favorite players man. I picked up a lot from him, his mentality, The way he carried himself, the way he worked. How competitive he was and wanted to b the best and wasn’t afraid of nobody. Watching Kobe showed me how to go about my business and really get after it and put the time in and really work to be better.”
Even though Bryant had so much more to give to the world, he accomplished so much in his time with us. Whether it was his five NBA Championships, two Olympic Gold Medals, or his backing of the WNBA and women’s basketball in general. He left us something that we can carry with us throughout the rest of our lives.
Obviously, that would be the Mamba Mentality.
Which means, “to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself. It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday,” said Bryant during his 2016 Mamba Mentality Tour.
With that being said, while we’re asking for the NBA logo to be changed to Kobe, or asking for all NBA teams to retire the numbers “24” and “8,” let’s also remember we can pay tribute and continue his legacy in different ways.