Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
As the men’s basketball team prepared for practice before their game against Radford, senior guard Shabooty Philips entered the court wearing a pair of Kobe Bryant sneakers with the words “R.I.P. Mamba” written on them in marker. If that is not a statement about the impact that Bryant had on young basketball players and the basketball world in general, then I don’t know what is.
The sports world was shaken to its core last Sunday when a helicopter carrying Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others crashed in Calabasas, California, killing everyone on board. The impact of that crash was felt all around the world, including right here in Farmville.
Phillips said when he heard the news, he thought it was fake at first. “I couldn’t believe it, he was gone soon.” Philips said that Bryant was his favorite player growing up and that he always appreciated the “mamba mentality” that Bryant was famous for.
Another Longwood player who felt the impact of Bryant’s death was junior forward Jordan Cintron. Cintron said, “Kobe Bryant, in my household, was the epitome of basketball. Growing up with only brothers, I came to know that name at a young age. That was a name that was well-known whether you knew basketball or not.”
Bryant’s death sent ripples through the basketball world that have still not settled. Cintron said, “For the basketball world, it’s huge because he changed the game. He set the tone for out-working your opponent and out-thinking your opponent. He was the ultimate competitor and that’s something he took outside the court as well.”
While Bryant made an impact on the NBA and young boys everywhere, he also made an impact on the WNBA and young girls everywhere. He was an outspoken proponent of women’s basketball and attended many WNBA and women’s college basketball games and his late daughter, Giana, had aspirations of playing in the WNBA.
One young woman who is a fan of Bryant’s impact on the women’s game was senior forward Dayna Rouse. Rouse said, “I respect him so much for trying to popularize women’s basketball. He did a lot to try to bring attention to and elevate women’s basketball in general and that’s such a reason to respect him.” Rouse said that she was in great shock and disbelief at the news of Bryant’s death and said that she was looking forward to seeing what he had to offer in his post-retirement life.
One thing Philips, Cintron and Rouse mentioned was the legacy that Bryant is leaving behind. Philips said, “Kobe let it be known that whatever you do, work hard.” Cintron said, “I will remember Kobe as one of the greats. We use the reference G.O.A.T. (Greatest of all-time) a lot but I think he made us realize that we need to stop comparing and appreciate all of the great players that come through the sport of basketball.” Rouse said, “He will always be someone to look up to. People can look to his mamba mentality whenever they want to work harder and push themselves further.”
Bryant was loved by so many, and he will be missed by many more, but one thing that he will never be, is forgotten, whether by Longwood basketball players, or just people who throw a piece of paper into the trash and shout his name. Taken from us at only forty-one years of age, Bryant’s memory lives on in the hearts of everyone who’s life he impacted.