HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - When the news of NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s death broke Sunday, athletes and fans across the world were shocked.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, were among nine who were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star, was 41 years old.
Players on the University of Southern Mississippi men’s basketball team reacted to the passing of a man who they say was an inspiration both on and off the court.
“I was actually at Wingstop with my girlfriend. The group message text about it, and I thought it was just fake,” said Gabe Watson, a sophomore point guard. “I was like ‘this can’t be real.’ I looked on Twitter, and it was just flooded.”
It was a reaction experienced by many when they heard the news. Bryant was drafted by the Lakers at 17-years-old. For many young athletes, Bryant’s work ethic were a model to follow.
“It definitely hurt me, just because he was one of the inspiration towards me to play the game of basketball,” Watson said. "So yeah, it definitely did hurt.”
Watson enjoyed the way Bryant played the game.
“Just his effort and his attitude toward the game," Watson said. “And also his attention to detail. As far as what I looked up to him was really his mid-ranges and attention to detail to give space.”
Tyler Stevenson, a sophomore forward for USM, admired Bryant for his actions on and off the court.
“It was devastating. He was more than just a basketball player,” Stevenson said. “I think he meant a lot to everybody, who didn’t even watch basketball or play basketball.”
The sports world is mourning the loss of an amazing athlete, but his work ethic and dedication to the sport will always be remembered as his legacy lives on.
"Kobe gave it 110% while he’s out there, every time. He’s really fun to watch, and I am really going to miss him,” Stevenson said.
“I know it’s going to take a toll on everybody,” Watson added. “I think it’s going to stain the community for a long time. I’m not sure how we’ll shake back from it, or even if we will shake back from it or get over it.”