COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The basketball community mourns a legend.
On Sunday in California, Kobe Bryant, widely considered one of the basketball greats of his generation, died in a helicopter crash. He was 41 years old.
This tragedy came a day after Lebron James passed the Lakers’ legend for third place on the NBA all-time scoring list.
Twentieth on that list resides with Gamecock great and pro basketball hall-of-fame player, Alex English. He, along with countless others across the world, remain heartbroken following this tragedy.
English first learned about the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Sunday afternoon when his daughter called.
“I’m like no way. No way. It can’t be. And, then, the fact he had his baby girl with him, that’s just so hard to believe.”
Tragically, Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, were two of nine that perished in the crash. As the news spread, tributes to Kobe’s legacy spread on social media. Outside the Staples Center, where Bryant played as a Laker, fans gathered to honor his memory.
Before all Sunday NBA games, a moment of silence was held in memory of Bryant.
“The generation that got to see him play, those are the guys playing in this league today. They are as devastated as I am. I know they have to be,” English said. “To lose such an icon, such a great player, someone that they grew up watching and wanted to be like.”
To English, this outpouring of love illustrates the tremendous impact Kobe had on people from all walks of life.
“He was so big in the game and so great for the game,” he said. “His post-career, you know we were beginning to see him blossom as a human being.”
English saw something special in Bryant before he stepped foot in the NBA.
“I know he had a great love of the game and believe in what he could do on the basketball court,” he said.
What followed was dominance.
The Philadelphia native, drafted by Charlotte in 1996, was traded to Los Angeles to begin his career. Over the next 20 years, Bryant put together an illustrious career as a Laker. The 18-time all-star won five NBA titles and was named the 2008 regular-season MVP.
“He was one of the greatest, if not the greatest,” English said. “And, more than that, he was a good family man. You could see the love for the game when he played it. You could see the joy on his face.”
Bryant retired in 2016. He was scheduled to be the headliner for the 2020 Hall of Fame Class.
“He will be there in spirit with his family and all the fans that loved Kobe Bryant,” English said.