The Calhoun Times reached out to several of Gordon County’s varsity basketball coaches to get their thoughts on NBA legend Kobe Bryant and the impact he had not only on the game itself, but also on his advocacy of basketball for everyone.
Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, died on Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Kobe was 41 years old.
Here are what the coaches said...
Sonoraville Lady Phoenix head coach Stephanie Caudell:
“He was a great ambassador for the sports for ... everybody. It was heartbreaking for me. Didn’t really believe it when I first heard it. I think it finally hit home when I got home and watched a lot of the footage. I plan to hopefully let my girls watch ... some kind of video today involving Kobe. They know him and remember him too, but just to hopefully show what kind of impact he had because he was a huge part of the sport the last 20 years.”
“I remember when he came into the league. It was amazing that someone that young was ready to come in and play NBA basketball, but he was. I think he’s easily one of the top 10, maybe even top five players of all time. He’s had a huge impact both in the United States and throughout the world. He was young, too, so he had a lot more I think he was going to do, not only as an athlete or somebody for basketball, but as a business person, and just being a successful person.”
On Kobe’s outreach for girls basketball, from amateur to the WNBA...
“It gives girls and young ladies something to aspire for, but it’s just nice having somebody of Kobe’s stature to be at those games and to make them feel like they are just as important and that their hard work means something because he was such an extremely hard worker.”
Calhoun Lady Jackets head coach Jaime Echols:
“It’s a huge loss. It’s numbing to me. I was shocked and stunned. I was actually at Planet Fitness with my wife and I kept seeing his face on the TV screens and I had just assumed it was because LeBron (James) broke his record (for third on the NBA’s all-time points scored list) the night before. After about 30 minutes of seeing his face, I actually read what it said and I almost fell off the treadmill. I couldn’t believe it.”
“He was a great ambassador for the game. He certainly did a lot for women’s basketball. He did a lot for basketball, period. Who knows what else he would have done. I think, like everybody, probably when you think about Kobe Bryant, you think about his mentality, his hard work, the way he went about his business. That’s something everybody can emulate no matter what line of work you’re in or what gender you are or anything like that.”
“A lot of people now ... are playing basketball because they watched him. They liked the we he played and as they examined that further, they found out why he played that way. It goes back to his work ethic and his mentality. I think successful people like to watch other successful people. You don’t even have to be a basketball player. You could take the things that made him successful and apply them to yourself. I think it’s was an inspiration to everybody the way he went about his business.”
Gordon Central Lady Warriors head coach Matt Swanson:
“Kobe Bryant is probably one of my favorite players. What hurt me about the situation is ... I think that he was going to, in his retirement, have a huge impact on the women’s game with his daughters. A lot of this break my heart about it, but as a girls coach, that’s what bothers me about it because I really think he could have led the sport of girls’ basketball into a totally different atmosphere. Then as a father, it just breaks my heart that happened because ... in his retirement, that’s what you see. You see him with his kids everywhere.”
“Just watching him, he was such a fierce competitor. He would do anything to win, almost. As soon as he went into retirement ... he became ... an Oscar-winning film producer. He’s just a winner. You always hear these NBA players talk about how he had an impact on their game. I think he took time with the young kids to teach them the game. I think that’s going to be his legacy.”
Sonoraville Phoenix head coach Brent Mashburn:
“The entire accident it’s just heartbreaking. When you see the number of people ... some of them his daughter and being children, it breaks your heart for their families. Kobe Bryant, he’s a guy, who, like a lot of superstar athletes, ... you kind of live your life along with him. The impact he’s had not only on the game of basketball, but beyond is something that’s going to live on forever.”
“When you talk about Kobe Bryant in terms of his place in the game of basketball, he’s one of the greatest to ever play. I think any of us in any profession across the world can see that to be able to achieve that level of success and greatness, you better be able to put the work in that he put in and have that competitive drive and desire that he had because I think those two things — his worth ethic and his competitiveness — obviously along with some God given ability, but those two things drove him to the top.”