C/O Wikimedia, Keith Allison
Kobe Bryant’s impact on Marauders basketball athletes is still strong two years after his passing
Jan. 26, 2020, it seemed like a normal day. Until it wasn’t.
At 9:47 a.m. in Calabasas, California, the police department received an emergency call about a helicopter crash into the mountainside. It was shortly after 10:00 a.m. that phones would start buzzing around the globe.
The world would soon learn that the helicopter belonged to National Basketball Association legend Kobe Bryant. On the helicopter were nine people, including Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and youth basketball sensation Gianna Bryant, famed college baseball coach John Altobelli and six others, all of whom would pass away on impact from the crash.
Fans worldwide mourned the lost NBA legend. Hours turned into days. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months.
Bryant, an NBA hall of famer, was an 18-time all-star, 15-time all-NBA recipient, five-time NBA champion and was the 2007-2008 NBA MVP. He even went on to hold the position of third all-time in points scored, although he now holds the position of fourth. Despite all of his success on the court, it was his mentality that drew the respect of millions — the Mamba Mentality.
Bryant’s unmatched work ethic was well documented and countless athletes looked up to him for that very reason, including several McMaster athletes. As the two-year anniversary of his death passes, many students, including Mia Spadafora of the women’s basketball team, still look back on the day.
“I’ll never forget going to morning practice [on] Monday morning . . . No one wanted to talk about it, no one wanted to believe that it was true. It was one of those things that if you don’t say it [then] it isn’t true and if we don’t talk about it [then] it didn’t happen,” said Spadafora.
It wasn’t an easy time for any basketball fan. His passing wasn’t something that wouldn’t pass over quickly as he was such an idol and role model for many.
“It was heartbreaking because it felt like one of those things that never ended. This horrible day happened and you’re taking it with you. You’re trying to embody and encompass Kobe Bryant every time you’re stepping on the court,” explained Spadafora.
Point guard Arianne Soriano also felt that this news was a big shock for the team. It’s something she is still unable to let go of years later.
“You can tell even though it was just through messages that everyone was pretty upset by the news. It definitely was a game changer and it opened our eyes as a team. I still carry that news with me especially with the anniversary [having recently passed],” said Soriano.
The impact that Bryant had on the individuals and on their team were significant. He touched the lives of many people and inspired both women to continue pushing the limits.
“Maybe I’m not the best player on the team, but the work ethic is there. I’m a team player and that leadership style is there. That’s something he’s taught me . . . When I looked at Kobe Bryant I saw his leadership and his commitment to people on and off the court. As I noticed his attachment to women’s basketball, that was the extra inspiration I needed,” explained Spadafora.
Several members of the team were able to embrace the legacy that Kobe left behind, using it as a method of motive rather than simply mourning his loss.
“The death of Kobe was really inspirational because it reminded us of the kind of player Kobe was. He’s the one that influenced Mamba Mentality. He’d have a three hour practice, for example, and would stay afterwards putting up extra shots, so that was the type of mentality that made us go harder that year . . . He made me want to put more work in,” Said Soriano
Bryant was an especially large figure for women in basketball. With five daughters of his own, he would quickly become an ambassador for women’s basketball, spurring interest through his own daughter, Gianna Bryant. This was just another reason why he meant such a great deal to the members of McMaster’s women’s basketball team.
“He was a huge ambassador for women’s sports, especially women’s basketball. With his daughter Gianna, he put in so much work after his career just to put more attention towards women’s basketball,” explained Soriano.
Spadafora not only felt a significant impact from Kobe on women’s basketball, but also from Gianna Bryant, despite just being 13 years old at the time of her passing.
“It breaks my heart to think about Gigi, his daughter, and how he was paving the way to put women at that standard that we never thought we’d be at in sport. I always think about where she would be now,” said Spadafora.
Despite being two years removed, it’s still a difficult pill for many to swallow. Bryant was always viewed as much more than just an athlete and to have such a tragic ending is why so many people have such a hard time moving on from his passing.
“It feels like a lot longer. It’s still hard to believe he’s gone . . . It really makes you realize how [you have to] play every game like it’s [going to] be your last because you never know. Playing basketball really is a privilege,” said Soriano.
Bryant might not be with us any longer, but the mentality that he lived for and passed on to so many will live on forever. Go chase that lifelong goal. Go put in the work and do what it takes. Never stop. Be like Kobe. Be legendary.
Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.