On Sunday, Jan. 26, it felt as though the world stopped.
Five-time NBA champion and Los Angeles Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash around 10 a.m. PT that killed eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa, Mamba Academy basketball coach Christina Mauser, Sara and Payton Chester, and pilot Ara Zobayan. Bryant’s impact on athletes, sports fans and people alike became clear after his passing.
Countless people around the world showed their condolences and collectively shared memories of Bryant across social media. Cities across America paid tribute in unique ways, including Boise: both Zions Bank and U.S. Bank set their exterior lights to purple and gold — the colors of the Lakers. Included in those mourning Bryant’s loss was the Boise State men’s basketball team.
Junior guard Derrick Alston and his teammates were flying back to Boise from their Saturday victory over Fresno State when TMZ broke the news that Bryant had passed away in a helicopter accident. Like many others, Alston’s initial thought was to assume that the stories were nothing more than a hoax. But as time went by, details of the tragedy unfolded and the passengers’ deaths were confirmed.
“[I] was really in disbelief. [It] really just hit me hard, just in the stomach. Not only with Kobe, but Gianna, as well; having a 12-year-old sister as well just really hit home,” Alston said in an interview with KTVB. “We live in a world where we get messages in weird ways and I think a death of that magnitude sent a shockwave through the entire world. Tomorrow’s never promised; always love.”
For many basketball players across the globe, Bryant was someone they modeled their game after. For Boise State’s junior forward Abu Kigab, Bryant is one of the main reasons Kigab plays basketball.
“[Bryant] was my role model growing up. He’s the reason I wear number 24,” Kigab said in an interview with KTVB. “He was my favorite player of all time and I was shocked when he passed away and may his soul rest in peace. We’re going to continue to carry on his legacy.”
Thanks to a long list of accomplishments over his 20-year NBA career, Bryant has been widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. In his final game, Bryant posted an NBA season-high of 60 points. At 37 years old, he became the oldest player to score 60 or more points in a single game.
“He was my superhero growing up. Everybody wants to be like Kobe growing up, especially me,” said senior guard Marcus Dickinson in an interview with KTVB. “… Once I started watching him more, I just fell in love and just hearing what happened in the tragic airplane crash, it just tore my heart.”
To senior forward RJ Williams, who grew up in Los Angeles, Bryant was a role model and a hero.
“Just being from LA and going to the Staples Center with my mom and sister to go and watch him play… it was a big deal for me,” Williams said in an interview with KTVB. “Having a role model, a hero, in my life as a male figure. What happened [Sunday], it hurts a lot.”
Bryant’s legacy inspired the Boise State basketball team and so many other people. His legacy does not leave with him as Bryant leaves behind his wife Vanessa and three other daughters, Bianka, Natalia and Capri.