Kobe Bryant Justin Shorts

Millennium sophomore Justin Shorts wears No. 24, the number Kobe Bryant played in throughout the latter part of his NBA career. 

The Millennium High School boys basketball team defeated Barry Goldwater 112-41 last Tuesday, but the resounding victory was hardly the main talking point among the Tigers after the final buzzer.

The shocking death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, in a California helicopter crash two days before the Millennium game devastated the sports community. 

Millennium 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 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 colors, the team wore Kobe Bryant shoes and before tip-off held a 24-second moment of silence. Bryant wore 24 for the Lakers.

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. 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 was known for hard work and laser-focused determination.

“When something tragic happens, it tends to bring people together,” Amundsen said. 

After topping 100 points in another blowout win Friday, Millennium was 18-5 on the season. With DaRon Holmes averaging more than 21 points per game, the high-flying Tigers will be looking to make a championship run in the playoffs.