Girls basketball players and coaches thankful for Kobe’s support of their game

Girls basketball players and coaches thankful for Kobe’s support of their game
Ballard High School girls basketball players Jasmine Johnson, Claire Simmons and Kiarah Carney talked about the impact Kobe Bryant had on their game.
Ballard High School girls basketball players Jasmine Johnson, Claire Simmons and Kiarah Carney talked about the impact Kobe Bryant had on their game. (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Mourners continue to gather outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles following Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his young daughter and a small group of their friends.

From Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Michael Jordan, countless stars are talking about Kobe Bryant’s talents on the court, but he’s also being remembered for his second act: Inspiring young players and being an advocate for girls basketball.

Ballard High School girls head basketball coach Carl White.
Ballard High School girls head basketball coach Carl White. (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)

"I was thinking like, no, that's fake because people post fake stuff like that all the time," said Jasmine Johnson, a Ballard Lady Bruins senior, on hearing the news that Bryant had been killed.

Around the world, that news came as a gut punch to those who loved Bryant and his game.

"My initial reaction was this has to be some kind of cruel joke," said Carl White, the Lady Bruins head basketball coach.

Five-time NBA champ Kobe Bryant spoke with CNN in an interview that aired Jan. 22. He died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.
Five-time NBA champ Kobe Bryant spoke with CNN in an interview that aired Jan. 22. He died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

"You think of somebody like Kobe and him dying," said Claire Simmons, another Lady Bruins senior, "That's not supposed to happen."

"Oh, I want to be like that when I get older," Ballard's Kiarah Carney remembered saying as a kid while watching Bryant play. "He just caught my attention as soon as I started watching him."

Millions of fans continued watching after the legend left the pros, as much of his focus became his daughters and his Mambas elite travel team. Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Giana was a talented Mambas point guard. She also died in the crash along with another player, that player's parents and assistant coach Christina Mauser.

"The fact that somebody with Kobe's stature would make themselves available, put his time, effort, resources into girls basketball, it meant a lot because programs were starting to get the exposure that they needed," White said.

Fans flooded to the girls games that Bryant coached. White and his team say the promotion was huge. Posts like one Bryant made just two weeks ago, of himself and Giana with L’s up in Washington, posing with University of Louisville signee Hailey Van Lith. Johnson said social media posts like that meant a lot to the sport.

"Everyone sees that and it gets through people's heads like, 'Oh, like women's basketball is great, it's not just men out there doing this."

“We put in the same hours, the same work,” Simmons said in agreement, “and it just means a lot that somebody like Kobe looks at us and is like keep doing what you’re doing, you know.”

The team hopes another NBA star or two will step up and honor their friend by continuing Kobe’s work in the promotion of girls and women’s basketball.

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