Kobe Bryant’s impact is still being felt throughout the NBA

On January 26, 2020, the world stopped as news of a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, was reported. Amongst the nine victims who did not survive the tragic incident were retired Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

The NBA community was at a loss for words as most players and fans could not fathom the thought that they would never see the “Black Mamba” sitting courtside with his daughter enjoying being a “Girl Dad” again. As a tribute to Bryant, several teams opted for 24-second shot clock violations to pay homage to his retired No. 24 jersey.

Three years later, the five-time NBA Finals champion and Hall of Fame player’s memory remains strong throughout the league.

“He was a model for young guys,” said Houston Rockets head coach Stephen Silas during his pregame press conference on Thursday. “He came into the league with that drive, passion, grit, and meanness. All those things you want from a player on your team.”

Silas was a scout with the Charlotte Hornets in 2002 when he witnessed the ferocity of Bryant firsthand on February 22, 2002.

“My first year when I was in Charlotte, one of the first games when I was a scout and sat behind the bench, he made a game-winner in classic Kobe style,” Silas said. “He was always so driven and committed to, for lack of a better word, killing his opponent.”

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who was in Houston for Thursday’s game, also witnessed Bryant’s greatness firsthand as an assistant coach with the Hornets during many of those years.

“It was special,” Bickerstaff said. “There are very few people that draw the attention that he was able to draw and could live up to that expectation every single day. Greatness is measured on a whole other level. Every single night they take the opponent’s best shot.”

Bickerstaff continued his comments:

Every single night, buildings sell out because this person is coming to town, and they wanted to see Kobe play at his best, and he took that to heart. He didn’t go anywhere and disappoint any fan anywhere. He didn’t go anywhere and did not give his opponent his best shot.

You admired the way he competed and how important the game was to him. He never let the outside stuff become more important than the game, and as a coach, you have so much admiration and appreciation for that.

Although Bryant retired in 2016 as the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history, he made an even greater name for himself away from the court. In 2018, he even received an Oscar for best animated short film for “Dear Basketball.” He also became a staple in women’s basketball, lending his voice and time to advance the game his daughter Gigi loved on the collegiate and professional levels (WNBA).

Third-year Rockets forward KJ Martin, a Los Angeles native, took some time before the game to reflect on what Bryant meant to him. As a child, Martin watched his dad, former NBA player Kenyon Martin Sr., battle Bryant on the court during a long career in the league.

“Growing up, he was always my favorite player,” Martin said from his locker. “Obviously, him and my dad had a lot of battles. In New Jersey (Nets), they played against each other in the Finals, and in Denver (Nuggets), they played multiple times in the Western Conference Finals. I got an opportunity after the game to get a game-worn pair of shoes (Kobe’s) that I still have to this day.”


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Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire