Current and former Michigan State students reacted to the death of Kobe Bryant with emotion and respect for his legacy.
As first reported on Sunday afternoon, Bryant, 41, and his 13-year old daughter Gianna died with seven others in a helicopter crash outside of Calabasas, California. Drafted straight out of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft, he went on to have one of the most decorated careers in NBA history for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA championships with 18 All-Star appearances and one MVP in 2008.
Lyman Briggs sophomore Bryce Kobe said he was shocked by the news and felt a special bond to Bryant on account of his last name.
“I’m in shock,” he said. “He was definitely one of my favorite players of all time. My last name’s Kobe and so, even when I was a little kid, I just thought ‘oh, same name as me. That’s awesome.’”
Kobe added that Bryant’s legacy lies in how much he matured in his 20 years with the Lakers.
“He started off kind of as a hated player,” he said. “He made a lot of mistakes early on but the fact is how much he grew both as a player and as a person through his career and ending up at the end as one of the most well-respected and well-liked athletes in general. I think he’s going to have a h--- of a legacy.”
Bryant had countless famous moments in the regular season and postseason but Kobe said his high-scoring final game in 2016 will always be his favorite moment.
“My favorite one that I saw, at least live, has to be his last game,” he said. “Sixty points was unreal after (Bryant’s longtime teammate Shaquille O’Neal) had challenged him to get 30 points, he goes out and drops 60. That just defines him right there.”
Social work freshman Jabria Riddle said Bryant and his daughter’s passing struck a chord because of her family.
“It’s shocking that he’s gone, plus his daughter is gone too,” she said. “She was only 13; my sister’s 13."
“That’s one of the basketball players that was known in my house and talked about all the time. It feels like it’s close to home even though it’s not close to home," she said.
Bryant, nicknamed the “Black Mamba,” was famous for being an intense in-game competitor. Kinesiology junior Josh Ramsey said it’s that “Mamba Mentality” that made him a once-in-a-lifetime player.
“There’s never gonna be someone else who had that instinct that they wanted the ball every single second, they wanted every single possession to be in their hands, they wanted to score all the points they can,” he said. “I don’t see anyone else ever topping his intensity during games or his will to want to teach others about it.”
Ramsey said his personal favorite moment from Bryant’s career exemplified his toughness and focus.
“It’s hard not to say the moment where Matt Barnes goes to throw the ball in his face and he doesn’t even flinch,” he said. “Just shows how intense he is as an athlete and as a competitor and how he doesn’t fear anything.”
In a non-traditional move, Bryant wore the numbers eight and 24, with both being retired by the Lakers in 2017. Ramsey said both should be retired across the league.
“I think they’re for sure going to retire the jersey across the league,” he said. “I don’t know if they’d do both numbers, I sure think they should.”
On social media, current and former Spartan athletes reacted to the accident. MSU basketball legend Magic Johnson, a perennial All-Star and five-time NBA champion for the Lakers in the 1980s, said in a series of Tweets that Bryant was “such an icon” and a mentor to younger players.
Former Spartan basketball player Miles Bridges shared photos of him and Bryant and cited him as an inspiration in a Tweet.
In addition, former Spartan basketball players Kenny Goins, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Nick Ward expressed their disbelief on Twitter.
A video of MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo telling senior point guard Cassius Winston of Bryant's passing after their 70-52 victory over Minnesota has gone viral on Twitter.
In a postgame interview with Big Ten Network, Izzo said that people can gain perspective from this tragedy.
"It's just tragic, of course, for the sport of basketball," he said. "But just think of him and his family and his daughter. It makes you just realize, every day, live each day. We all got to do a better job of that."