Among those mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant Monday is a college coach who attempted to recruit him out of high school, Jim Calhoun.
Calhoun, head coach at UConn at the time, didn’t land Kobe as a player. No college coach did, as he went straight to the pros out of Pennsylvania’s Lower Merion High School.
Calhoun remembers a teenaged Bryant being incredibly smart and gifted with exceptional talent. Calhoun, like many, reflected on the loss of a legend.
“Whoever thought someone as young, as wealthy, as vivacious, bright as Kobe Bryant would leave us?” said Calhoun.
Calhoun is among the millions stunned by the loss of Basketball greatness. Kobe Bryant was an 18-time all-star and five-time NBA champion, gone at the age of 41.
“Last night about eight o’clock I was sitting on the couch and saying that, somebody’s gonna say this is a joke,” said former NBA player and current Central Connecticut State University basketball coach, Donyell Marshall
Marshall played in the NBA from 1994 to 2009 and remembers the fierce matchups with Bryant.
“He had the Mamba, the killer mentality,” said Marshall. “He wanted to be great and he expected it from his teammates as well.”
At gyms around the country today, basketball players hit the court with heavy hearts. Young players said Kobe Bryant was the Michael Jordan of their generation. Like many, these players spent countless hours emulating their hero.
“He’s famous for that fade-away so every time you count down 3-2-1 and shoot your fade-away just like Kobe Bryant always did,” said Mike Sagay, a University of Saint Joseph’s student from Bloomfield.
Unlike the players we spoke with, one player truly did mirror Bryant’s moves. Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna who was one of the nine helicopter crash victims.
A talented basketball player herself, Gianna had hopes of one day playing for UConn. Former Husky greats Marshall and Calhoun reflected on this loss.
“Everybody knew she wanted to go to UConn” said Marshall. “I was looking forward to watching her put that uniform on one day.”
“It’s a tragedy,” added Calhoun. “As badly as I feel for Kobe and the basketball world I feel worse for the family and GiGi. Her life. Thirteen years old, vivacious. Trying to become a player.”
Around the country basketball fans are mourning. In Springfield at the Basketball Hall of Fame a small memorial was erected as fans visited to pay respects. Some fans, completely moved by the situation, suggested Monday be one of reflection.
“It’s time to grab each other, love each other and care about each other,” said Jeffrey Adams. “If Kobe makes that happen, I would be very proud to say that I’m a Boston Celtic fan who loves a Laker, Mr. Kobe Bryant.”
Bryant is not yet enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but on Monday it was announced that he will be inducted as part of the 2020 class.
“Basketball legends live forever here so we look forward to honoring Kobe in that way,” said John Doleva, president & CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball HOF.