BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - On Wednesday, Vanessa Bryant made her first public comments on Instagram since the death of her husband, Kobe and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna stating "There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now”.
That pain being felt worldwide, even right here on the Gulf Coast.
“Just heartbreaking and it’s one of those moments that personally you ask God, God why? Why does this happen to good people,” Gulfport boys basketball coach Owen Miller told WLOX.
The sports world’s heartbeat stopped beating this past Sunday when NBA Legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The tragedy has resonated with millions, especially coast athletes who grew up idolizing him.
“I had just got out of church. The post from TMZ, CNN, and ESPN finally confirmed that it was true," Gulfport forward Gregg Magee said. "Sunday I went home, laid down all day. Woke up, went to the gym to put up some shots just to get it off my mind. That night I just was watching film really of him.”
Over the last few days, there have been tributes to honor the basketball icon. From South Mississippi to the Philippines, in the form of murals, shot-clock violations, signatures on sneakers, and changing jersey numbers.
“She came up to me the next day of school and she was like, Coach I think I want to wear 24 if that’s alright," Ethan Porter, Moss Point girls basketball head coach, told WLOX about a conversation with his star player. "I was like absolutely, one of my favorite players.”
“It felt special. It felt like he was watching me," Moss Point senior guard Robyn Lee said. "I just had to play good, play hard for him.”
Lee scored 21 points to lead the Lady Tigers to a 43-24 victory over Vancleave on Senior Night while wearing Kobe’s number 24 jersey instead of her normal number five. At halftime, Moss Point led 24-8, both digits were Bryant’s jersey numbers.
“The halftime score I didn’t even notice it until the next day. I don’t believe that it is a coincidence and you know it’s cool when things like that happen.”
The Laker Great was revered for his relentless effort on the hardwood, creating the phrase ‘Mamba Mentality’. A work ethic that can be used either in sports or the every day grind. Both coast coaches described what the phrase meant to them.
“Striving for excellence everyday," Miller said.
“Waking up, not wanting to be average, but wanting to be great," Porter said.
Nine lives gone far too soon, that makes us think about what’s really important in life.
“Stay close to your loved ones because you may never know when your time may be," Magee told WLOX.
“Give it your all because you never know if it’s going to be your last game or last day to live. Just live life to the fullest," Lee said.