Local athletes describe how Kobe Bryant shaped their careers

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- The sudden loss of NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, one of his daughters, and seven others have sent shock waves around the world.  

Kobe Bryant was only 17 years old when he was chosen in the first round of the NBA draft which launched his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

While the news of his passing has impacted the entire world, it hit hard with the sports community. However, even though he is gone, he will not be forgotten.

Kobe Bryant’s legacy both on and off the court has specifically inspired local athletes.

Desean Green is a senior on the Milligan basketball team who has been playing since he was about 6 years old. He said when he saw the news, he couldn’t believe it.

“It went from disbelief to denial to just my heart breaking into pieces,” said Green.

While scrolling through online feeds, many players said they had the same reaction to the news of Kobe Bryant’s passing, pure disbelief.

“I wanted it to be fake, you know? You see TMZ and you think there’s a 50/50 shot of whether it’s real or not and I was just praying it was fake because it killed me,” said Milligan Sophomore, Trevor Hensley.

Not only was Kobe Bryant an icon in the sports community, but he was also a role model to many. Bryant was especially known for his wide support for women’s basketball.

“It’s truly devastating. Kobe Bryant taught me how to be tough and to not settle for being just good. His Mamba Mentality challenged me to be great. He was a true supporter of women’s basketball and his love for the game was unmatched by many. I’ll never forget him and all that he’s done for the basketball community. He’s iconic and God now has two more angels. Prayers up for his family in this tragic time,” said Milligan Junior, Teal Davis.

A number of Milligan Women’s basketball players sent News Channel 11 statements regarding their feelings on this great loss.

“Kobe Bryant’s sudden passing is tragic, but legends never truly die. He was not only one of the best basketball players to have ever lived, but he was also a big fan and promoter of women’s basketball. Knowing that there was an NBA superstar that cared just as much about women’s college and WNBA basketball means a lot to me. People will always remember and respect the number 24,” said Milligan freshman, Sierra Bailey.

Green said when he heard confirmation that Kobe Bryant had actually passed away, he broke into tears. He said the loss felt personal to him.

“Even though I don’t know him, I have a genuine love for him because of what he meant to me. He was kind of like, well I guess I’d say he was my hero,” said Green.

Green also says the news of Byrant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, dying in the helicopter crash also broke him because he has a sister around the same age and can’t imagine a loss like that.

“My heart goes out to the Bryant family and every family impacted by this tragedy, it’s truly heartbreaking,” said Green.

SEE ALSO: Remembering the 9 victims of the Calabasas helicopter crash

Local athletes say Kobe Bryant shaped them into who they are today. Not only did they learn from his work ethic and determination, but they say they also learned from this tragedy that life is too short.

“After hearing the news, I realized you need to tell the people you love that you love them. I called my family, and that’s what I did,” said Green.

“As a child who grew up playing basketball, Kobe Bryant was a frequent topic of discussion in my life. The crazy thing is, I can remember knowing and admiring Kobe as a basketball player, but not nearly as much as I began to admire the retired basketball version of Kobe. Not only did he inspire millions, but he also made efforts to truly help people become the best versions of themselves. He started a library, a school, leagues for sports teams, and was an advocate for kids across the country. So, I choose to remember him as a man who met and exceeded many milestones in basketball, but more importantly, a man who made a difference in the world. Lastly, a quote from Kobe that speaks volumes to me: “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” This world will miss #24,” said Emily Kiser, Milligan Senior.

ETSU basketball team members also touched on the passing of Kobe Bryant. Many players said he was a role model to them and someone they modeled their own athletic career after.

“His hard work is what got him where he was so I just try to work as hard as him, said ETSU Senior, Tray Boyd.

“I’ll never forget him. His fire, his grit, his toughness, that’s what I loved about him,” said ETSU Senior, Joe Hugley.

“Kobe to me was more than just an idol because of what he did in between the lines. He was becoming a major name in the women’s game. He was a role model through his work ethic and determination. Nobody could stop him, he was always going to win because that’s the mamba mentality. This is a loss to more than just the basketball world, this is a loss to any kid who dreamed of being the Kobe Bryant of their family. He made me sure that I wanted to stay in this game for as long as I can, in any way that I can. The effect he had on me, I can only dream of being able to have that on other kids. Long live Kobe and GiGi,” said ETSU Senior, Taisha Murphy.

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