The Millennium boys’ basketball team defeated Barry Goldwater 112-41 on Tuesday, but the resounding victory was hardly main talking point among the Tigers after the final buzzer.
The death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, along with his daughter GiGi and several other passengers in a California helicopter crash on Sunday devastated the sports community. As basketball players, coaches and fans around the world grieved the loss of an icon, many found unique ways to express the mark the man known as just ‘Kobe’ left on their lives.
Tiger junior Coleman Fields figured the best way for his team to celebrate the life of the 18-time NBA All-Star and five-time champion, among other accolades, would be to play its next game in Bryant’s honor.
“Tuesday’s game let’s make it a purple and yellow theme for remembrance of Kobe Bean Bryant and his daughter Gigi…as well as the others who died,” said Fields in a Twitter post on Monday.
Several fans in the student section wore Lakers or similarly-colored gear, the team wore Kobe Bryant shoes on the court and the team held a 24-second moment of silence – Bryant wore 24 for the Lakers in the latter part of his career – before tip-off.
Fields said Bryant was his favorite player, and a major reason for him picking up a basketball in the first place. As one of the most decorated basketball players at any level, the sentiment is shared among many, and the
The rest of the season, Fields said, is dedicated to his favorite player, and having a game dedicated to him just two days after the tragedy was a step toward healing.
“As soon as it happened, it hit me hard,” Fields said. “I knew I wanted to do my part because I’ve been praying for his family and the others on the helicopter. We talked about it in the locker room and we knew we were going to come out balling for Kobe tonight.”
Millennium coach Ty Amundsen said his staff encourages players to have role models like Bryant or other basketball stars. Bryant, though, was known for a specific style of hard work and determination that Amundsen liked to point out to his players.
“These kids absolutely, 100 percent look up to the NBA guys. They try to emulate them, study their games, and figure out what moves they’ve got so they can make that their thing, and Kobe, if you ask any of these kids, they’ll say they loved him,” Amundsen said.
And, though sad, the way the passing of a beloved figure brought the basketball community, both far and wide, a little bit closer, at least for a moment.
“When something tragic happens, it tends to bring people together. And the basketball community is so tight-knit anyway, and you talk to people, watch a lot of these guys and you can tell this really hurt them,” Amundsen said.
“And it’s so difficult, but it makes you see the way it makes people support each other when something like that happens.”
Millennium (17-5) plays its next game at Verrado on Jan. 31.