Noida, Jan 29 (IANS) On Sunday, the sporting fraternity faced one of their biggest losses when NBA legend and one of the most decorated athletes in the sport, Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California.
Over the years the five-time NBA Champion with Los Angeles Lakers earned the nickname ‘Black Mamba’, for his lethal shooting accuracy.
In his final game for the Lakers in 2016, where he spent two decades of his professional career, Bryant scored a staggering 60 points, making many wonder if it was even time for the legend to retire.
At the NBA Academy India in Noida the mood was sombre. For many of the basketball players who were part of the academy, Bryant was their role model and favourite player.
Lalhnehpuia ChhakChhuak from Mizoram who is part of the academy grew up watching Lakers and like anybody who supported the team, Bryant was his treasured star.
“Kobe was the first basketball player I knew. I got to know him when I was eight-years-old while watching the 2010 NBA final played between Boston Celtics and Lakers. Since then I have been a big fan.
“The thing that made him special and different from other athletes was his ability to inspire other people by his words or his actions. It had always been my dream to watch him live but I never got the chance to do so,” said the 17-year-old.
Talking about how Bryant had influenced his game, Lalhnehpuia said, “I used to watch his videos regularly to learn how he moves, how he uses his footwork to get by defenders. After practice, we even used to imitate his fade-away and turnaround jumpers.”
Vikrant who is also part of the NBA Academy said Bryant was a huge inspiration for him. “Like Kobe I also play as a shooting guard, so I did not find anyone better to admire and learn. Widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he also remains the first guard in NBA history to play at least 20 seasons. He was not only a basketball star but he was a real leader. I was not lucky enough to get a chance to see him play live, but I didn’t miss any of his live Games on TV,” said the 17-year-old from Haryana.