Kobe Bryant: A champion for women's basketball

Posted at 11:41 PM, Jan 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 18:42:34-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fl. (WTXL) — Kobe "Bean" Bryant, also known as Black Mamba, died Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in California. Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers, including John Altobelli, a baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Altobelli's wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa, also died in the crash. The four other victims have not been named.

For Bryant, he wasn't just a 5-time NBA champion, but also a huge supporter of women's basketball. Whether it was a grade school or high school level game, a college national championship, or sitting court side at a WNBA game, Bryant was a huge part in being a part of women's basketball and helping elevate the game.

As millions around the world learned the news of the crash that claimed Bryant's life, the Florida State women's basketball team took the Donald Tucker Center by storm. The Seminoles defeated in-state foe Miami 79-61. After the game, head coach Sue Semrau and her team found out about the crash and that an NBA legend, who many players aspired to be like, had died.

"Watching him was unbelievable," said Coach Semrau. "Many people modeled their game after him. And even after he retired, for him to stay as involved in the game as he did, but then to be a huge advocate for women and women's basketball, knowing he had a daughter. It's really helped us to move our game to a new level."

Kiah Gillespie, a senior forward for Florida State, said her dream was to meet Bryant at some point in her life. She had hoped that meeting would happen this year, as long as her and her team made it to the NCAA Women's Final Four Tournament.

"It's just heartbreaking to know that he was on his way, they were on their way to play basketball," said Gillespie. "It just shows the impact he had on the game and the legacy he built for everyone. Even his daughter, the 13 years she was here, but you know, my heart goes out to their family. I can't imagine what they're going through. We're thankful for what he's done for women's basketball and I just hope and pray we continue to elevate what he built for us, thus far."

Kevin Lynum, the head coach for the Florida A&M women's basketball team was shocked to hear about Bryant's death.

The head girls basketball coach for North Florida Christian, Jodie Price, said at practice on Monday, that her players realized their shoes were Kobe's. Price also knows how big of an influence Bryant was on the women's game. "When you have somebody like that who cares about the women's game, it's a statement to those women, your game is important, and your game is just as important as the men's game." Price said Bryant could send the message that what women are doing in sports is indeed important.

"What he's done in his lifetime is everlasting and nobody will ever compare to Kobe ever again. I think he left far too early, but he definitely left his mark here on this earth," Gillespie said.