Thousands of basketball programs across the country were in the middle of their seasons as news of NBA giant Kobe Bryant’s untimely death broke nationwide, causing many athletes to pay homage to the icon who impacted the game. The Texas State women’s basketball team reflected on the “Mamba Mentality,” his impact on women’s basketball and his legacy as a parent in the wake of their home win over the University of Texas- Arlington on Saturday.
Bryant, 41, his 13-year old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26 near Calabasas, Calif en route to a youth basketball tournament.
Bryant was most well-known for his 20-year season with the Los Angeles Lakers that saw him reach the milestone of youngest player in the league to hit 30,000 career points. When he wasn’t taking home three consecutive NBA Championships, infamously scoring 81 points against the Toronto Raptors or putting up shots in an empty gym, Bryant was a father to four daughters—Natalia, Capri, Bianka and the late Gianna.
As a parent herself, Head Coach Zenarae Antoine said she respects his dedication and sacrifices he made to raise his daughters.
“What I appreciate as a parent is that if he’s going to sacrifice anything, it was always sleep and that’s what he did,” Antoine said. “He would go get his workout in and he would take the helicopter and get home to his family to take the kids to school (and) that was very important to him. He always said he’d sacrifice sleep (and) I think that’s just beautiful to see.”
Bryant, a self-proclaimed “girl dad,” was well-known for teaching his daughters the name of the game even when many expected him to want a son. His support for his daughters prompted #girldad to trend on Twitter after his passing, a hashtag that Antoine said was impactful.
“For (Kobe) to be a father of four daughters and use the platform he has as a phenomenal player to step up for young women and teach the game, I think is something that’s unheard of,” Antoine said. “To be able to do it in the fashion that he did it and make everyone truly watch the women’s game and appreciate it even more is something that I hope people carry on. Title IX has come a long way, but to have someone like Kobe Bryant start this movement is exciting and I really hope it continues to be understood that these young women work just as hard. Just because very few of us play above the rim doesn’t mean that the work, sweat and dedication behind closed doors doesn’t go into it and the student-athletes and I do appreciate it.”
Kobe Bryant retired from professional basketball in 2016 and had since been working on many business ventures. He remained a prominent figure in sports, often acting as a mentor for world-class athletes. In his free time, he was seen attending home games for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. Bryant was also head coach of his daughters basketball team, teaching the game of basketball to many young players.
Sophomore forward Da’Nasia Hood said Bryant’s biggest accomplishments weren’t on the court, but in his work after his career.
“He was a great player, but what gets to me the most is what he started doing after his career and how he was able to start change using his platform,” Hood said.
Bryant had an impact on not only the NBA and WBA, but a generation of aspiring athletes who were influenced by his groundbreaking 20-year career. Bryant’s mindset, dubbed the “Mamba Mentality,” inspired young athletes with a focus on tremendous hard work and inner strength.
Senior guard Brooke Holle said she brings mental toughness and confidence to the court through the Mamba Mentality.
“The Mamba Mentality is having confidence in yourself, no doubt in your soul that you’re meant to be on that court and no one is better than you,” Holle said. “You’ve got to go get it; I think he showed toughness and I try to emulate that.”
Kobe Bryant’s motor for success never waned, and his drive made him who he was. His death was felt worldwide as his legacy transcends basketball. Bryant shaped countless athletes’ lives with five championships, four beautiful daughters and one common love for the game.