BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Nearly a month has passed since the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others. Thousands of people remembered Kobe and Gianna at a public memorial service at L.A.'s Staples Center on Monday.
In South Mississippi, many are grieving the loss of the NBA superstar, as well, including one Biloxi family who have been in Los Angeles this week paying their respects to the iconic Kobe Bryant.
The Boneys live, breathe, eat, and sometimes even sleep, basketball. Matt Boney grew up as a Lakers fan and his passion and love is now shared by his oldest son Maddox.
The family even surprised the young fan with tickets to a Lakers game this past Christmas to see them take on the Celtics at Staples Center on Feb. 23.
The family loves the team so much, they are even the Lakers in their recreational basketball league. Maddox is a sharpshooter, and the team’s coach is none other than the man who first nurtured his love for the sport, his dad Matt.
“It is definitely a love I forced on him. But now they are taking it and running with it," said Matt. "They’re always teaching me things and Maddox is always reading the record books and telling me about all these different records that have happened.”
Not many eight-year-olds know the top five scorers in NBA history, but Maddox fires them off in just seconds.
“Kareem Abdull Jabaar, Karl Malone, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan,” said Maddox.
Like those superstars - four of whom were Lakers - Maddox likes to score. So it should come as no surprise that he often spends his free time working on his Mamba Mentality. He even shouts Kobe while playing a friendly game of HORSE.
“(Kobe Bryant) always tries his hardest and uses his Mamba mentality,” said Maddox, when asked what made the Black Mamba - Bryant’s nickname - so special.
That mentality is something Maddox’s father hopes his son learns from the Lakers icon.
“Maddox isn’t going to be the strongest or the fastest. He isn’t going to jump the highest but you can work hard every day like Kobe did," said Matt. “Kobe was always the first one in the gym and the last one to leave.”
While the family loved taking in a game at Staples Center, the opportunity to pay their respects to one of their heroes is what truly made the trip special.
“It is definitely cool as a family to get to go over there. Even my four year old, who doesn’t even know how to read knows about Kobe, and Lebron and the Lakers, Kareem and Magic. It has definitely become a family thing, this whole Lakers thing," said Matt.
Unfortunately for the Boneys, they were unable to get tickets to the public memorial held Monday. But the experience of seeing the Staples Center and the many tributes to Kobe Bryant throughout the Los Angeles area was special for the entire family.
Making the trip even more special for the Boneys was the Lakers beating the Celtics Sunday. Now, the Lakers will continue trying to win their first championship since Kobe left the team.