Huskies remember Kobe “the Mamba” Bryant

FILE+-+In+this+June+7%2C+2009%2C+file+photo%2C+Los+Angeles+Lakers+guard+Kobe+Bryant+%2824%29+points+to+a+player+behind+him+after+making+a+basket+in+the+closing+seconds+against+the+Orlando+Magic+in+Game+2+of+the+NBA+basketball+finals%2C+in+Los+Angeles.+Bryant%2C+the+18-time+NBA+All-Star+who+won+five+championships+and+became+one+of+the+greatest+basketball+players+of+his+generation+during+a+20-year+career+with+the+Los+Angeles+Lakers%2C+died+in+a+helicopter+crash+Sunday%2C+Jan.+26%2C+2020.+%28AP+Photo%2FMark+J.+Terrill%2C+File%29

FILE – In this June 7, 2009, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals, in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Jarrett Huff

DeKALB — Kobe Bryant impacted an entire generation. While he was trying to “be like Mike,” the kids watching were trying to be like Kobe. Some of those kids have continued to play the game he loved beyond their childhood years, and Bryant remains an inspiration to some of NIU’s Huskie athletes. The men’s basketball team spoke on Kobe’s influence on them. Members of the women’s basketball team declined to comment.

The following has been lightly edited for clarity and consistency.

Eugene German | Senior Guard

What are some of your early memories of Kobe Bryant?

One of my earliest memories of Kobe is when he said you should train more than other people are training. He said he wakes up at this time to train, would go back to go eat, then he’d come back at this certain time to train more to make sure he was ahead of his competition, to separate his game  from the other players that much.

How has Kobe had an impact on your life?

His work ethic had an impact on my life. His Mamba Mentality. I’m still trying to get that Mamba Mentality, still trying to get it to this day.

What is your favorite Kobe moment?

I remember it was All-Star Weekend with him and LeBron James. They were right here left side of the court near the three point line, and LeBron was clapping his hands, acting like he was going to guard him, and they were just playing around. That’s my all-time favorite moment about Kobe.

What does “Kobe” mean to you?

He is one of the greatest players of all-time. He’s definitely a top five player all-time.

Trendon Hankerson | Sophomore Guard

What are some of your early memories of Kobe Bryant?

I remember him playing against Michael Jordan and watching him in the All-Star game. I remember watching all those All-Star games as a kid, just watching the evolution of Kobe.

How has Kobe had an impact on your life?

Kobe just being one of the greatest players growing up in the NBA, just inspiring you. The biggest thing for me was his Black Mamba thing — being aggressive. Having an alter-ego on the court, playing as hard as he could. That’s what really inspired me.

What is your favorite Kobe moment?

My favorite Kobe moment by far was in the Finals when he threw that lob to Shaquille O’Neal. That by far was one of the biggest plays to me that I think I’ve ever seen.

What does “Kobe” mean to you?

Kobe is a killer. Everybody knows he just goes out every night and tries his hardest to win and score the ball.

Lacey James | Redshirt Senior Forward

What are some of your early memories of Kobe Bryant?

I remember when I was younger, I was always a LeBron James fan. But, when Kobe teamed up with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and all of them, I kind of just fell in love with his type of basketball. I remember them in the finals, especially against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, and then them and the Boston Celtics.

How has Kobe had an impact on your life?

He definitely impacted my life. Just from the mental standpoint of learning from him. I bought his book when it came out about a year and a half ago or two years ago. It’s called “The Mamba Mentality”, and it says the way he plays. From every detail, from what he does before games, mentally and also what he studies after games and how he’s studied the referees — what spots they were on the floor, how much the ball weighs and everything like that.

What is your favorite Kobe moment?

I would just have to say his last game. I sat and watched the whole thing from start to finish — from when he walked in until he walked out. He scored 60 points; it’s just amazing. He played 20 years in the league, more than half his life, and just going out and scoring 60 points in his last curtain, and that’s just my favorite. ‘Mamba out’, you know when he made his last speech and talking about thanking everyone from Magic Johnson, to his wife, to his kids and then you know he says ‘what else do I have to say? Mamba out,’ you know he kissed his fingers and dropped the mic.

What does “Kobe” mean to you?

I just think of his competitiveness and his mindset. As soon has he crossed that line on that court he turned into a whole different person. I get chills just thinking about it because of how competitive he was and how much he cared about something he worked so hard for.

Noah McCarty | Senior Forward

What are some of your early memories of Kobe Bryant?

My earliest Kobe memories include the series of the old-school Lakers-Celtics rivalry, going up against each other in the Finals — Kobe, Pau Gasol — that Lakers team. Definitely the 81-point game as well, I know I was young, but somebody scoring 81 points in a game is unbelievable.

How has Kobe had an impact on your life?

It’s obviously not a direct impact, but he had an impact through basketball. Kobe changed the game for so many people. Him, LeBron James, they do so much for their community. Me, personally, he inspired me to be better. His work ethic and stuff like that, is unmatched.

What is your favorite Kobe moment?

My favorite Kobe moment is probably the shot against the Miami Heat that banked in off the glass. Or the first championship without Shaquille O’Neal. That kind of proved to everyone that he didn’t need another superstar of that caliber to win.

What does “Kobe” mean to you?

I think about the he all-around work ethic he had. Kobe brought it everyday, you know the “Mamba Mentality.” Whether it was practice, it was a game and just winning championships, and that’s the legacy he’s going to leave. That’s what he meant to me, just winning, being who you are, and don’t let anybody change you because he did it for 20-plus years in the NBA and didn’t let anybody change him.

He taught this generation of fans the “Mamba Mentality,” the value of hard work, to persevere despite the odds and tune out all the outside noise. He taught us to never settle — to never be satisfied with where you were, and to strive to be the best you can be. He challenged us to be a different animal, and the same beast. He showed the world the importance of being a supportive parent. He was a true ambassador for the game, regardless of what gender was playing.

Beyond that, he showed the world the value of family and the time one should share with their loved ones. He showed the world the importance of being a supportive parent. Finally, he taught us the importance of letting those that we love in our life know that they are loved, because the next “hello” isn’t guaranteed, and you never know the gravity of the last time you said “goodbye.”

“Rest in peace, it’s sad that he and [Gianna Bryant] died, and we wish we could’ve seen her grow up, but legends never die,” McCarty said.

“I pray for him, I pray for his family, his wife and all the other victims,” James said. “My last words for him are ‘thank you, thank you for all the hard work, and making an example out of hard work.’”

“He left his mark on this earth,” German said.

“He didn’t die in vain, and I appreciate everything he did for the basketball community,” Hankerson said.