The sports world was in shock on Sunday morning after the news broke out that former NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were killed in a helicopter accident in Los Angeles.
Millions of fans around the globe of Black Mamba are still coping with what happened, putting together memorial sites and creating large murals to pay tribute.
A group of players from the Pajaro Valley High boys’ basketball team on Wednesday wore Bryant’s iconic No. 24 and No. 8 jerseys in homage to him.
Senior Bryan Gallardo wore a black shirt with the words Purple Rain in the shoot-around prior to their game against Soledad High.
The Grizzlies defeated the Aztecs, 78-64, in Pacific Coast Action League Cypress Division play. Gallardo said the goal was to try to score 81 points, which was a single game career-best for Bryant.
“We almost got to 81,” he said with some disappointment.
Gallardo was at work when he received a notification when the news broke of the accident that took the lives of nine people including Bryant, 41, and his 13-year old daughter, Gianna.
Gallardo said he’s still in shock at the horrific event.
“(Bryant’s) somebody that everybody in the world knows about,” Gallardo said. “You think of Kobe you don’t even have to be necessarily involved with basketball.”
Gallardo said Kobe was known worldwide and he had an effect on people who related to the superstar’s hard work ethic and perseverance.
“The Mamba Mentality, like he says,” Gallardo said.
Gallardo said what he remembers the most is when the Los Angeles Lakers went on their championship run in 2010. He said he turned on the television to watch them play in some exciting games and admired the way Bryant played.
“Hands down, no excuses and go with it,” Gallardo said. “Do everything you can to secure a win.”
Pajaro Valley coach Andre Bailey said Bryant was the definition of what hard work can produce. He said that becoming the “Black Mamba” was one of the best parts of his game.
“You don’t have to hate our opponent to attack,” Bailey said. “There’s no cause for me to hate. I’m just going to attack you because you’re in my way, it’s as simple as that.”
The Washington Post did a feature on Bryant where he revealed that the movie “Kill Bill” was the primary motivation for the “Black Mamba” nickname.
In the film, the character Elle Driver of the deadly viper assassination squad uses a black mamba in order to kill a fellow assassin.
“The length, the snake, the bite, the strike, the temperament,” Bryant said during the interview. “‘Let me look this s— up.’ I looked it up — yeah, that’s me. That’s me!'”
Bryant’s alter ego, the “Black Mamba,” gave him a chance to become an assassin on the court.
Bailey said nowadays a lot of kids don’t truly understand that to become the best they have to put in the work every day.
“Working hard in practice is the bare minimum,” Bailey said. “You’re supposed to do that. You want an award just for showing up to class? You have to go to class and if you want that A you’re going to have to put in the work.”
Bailey said it was awesome for the players to honor Bryant by wearing his jersey but he hopes they know what it meant to put it on for that particular night.
“I hope they understood that wearing that jersey just symbolized the tireless effort that he put in,” Bailey said. “The last of a dying breed. You don’t see players putting in to be the best.”
Aptos High junior guard Jojoe Moreno said it was tough for him to hear the news because he’s been following Bryant since he can remember.
“I grew up watching him, he was my idol,” Moreno said. “To me he’s the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time).”
Moreno said what makes it tough is that one never knows when something tragic like the accident can happen in a flash.
“Right as I heard that, I gave my mom a hug, my dad, because anything can happen at any moment,” Moreno said. “You just have to hug your loved ones and just tell them you love them.”
Moreno said what he’ll remember the most about Bryant is the “Mamba Mentality” he personified. Moreno must have had a bit of that mentality rub off on him during Tuesday night’s game against Harbor High.
He drained a 3-point bucket late in the third quarter that helped the Mariners take their first lead of the game since the opening tip.
“Whenever I see (Bryant) play, he was just a dog on defense and offense,” Moreno said. “I just try to follow his footsteps right there tonight.”
Moreno said he usually wears a pair of Bryant’s sneakers when he plays but he wore a different pair in Tuesday night’s game. He made some clutch free throws to secure a 48-42 win against the Pirates in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League play.
“After the free throws, that’s what I just thought, was Kobe,” Moreno said. “I touched my shoes and pointed up to the sky. Other than basketball, he was a great person and someone to look up to. It’s just tough.”
Editor’s Note: This article will be published in the Jan. 31 edition of The Pajaronian.