Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.
Joining other sports fans, the reaction to the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, along with seven others, was swift among the basketball coaching community, and that included Osceola County’s ranks.
While the players they coach are only old enough to maybe have seen Bryant play, the coaches are plenty old enough to have seen his 20-year playing career, which ended in 2016, and definitely his prime years, when he helped the L.A. Lakers to five NBA championships.
Many took to social media, or shared their thoughts when reached out to.
Harmony boys basketball coach Ben Bartlett used Bryant’s work ethic to try to motivate his team.
“I was just talking about his quote to some of my players last week: ‘I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language.’ Kobe was known for his work ethic and I wish there was a way to instill his drive into all my players,” he said. “It would make competing better. It would make coaching better. It would make the game better.”
Justin Marino coaches the girls programs at Gateway High and Neptune Middle schools, and like Bryant has a daughter that plays competitive basketball, so there are many parallels for him to draw.
“It’s just so heartbreaking, especially with all the pictures of him coaching his daughter … they were on there way to a travel basketball game,” he said. “I was with my daughter at travel basketball practice (when he found out).
“From a fan perspective I didn’t like him (Marino’s a Boston Celtics fan). They were our rivals. His work ethic was one that will never been seen again. He’s everything you want your kids to be. In an era of everyone teaming up to win a championship he stayed in one place and came away with five! He was one of the greatest I’ve ever seen.”
And, you don’t have to be coaching currently, or just coach basketball, to have been visible rattled by Sunday’s news. Gateway football coach Marlin Roberts has spent time as a Panthers assistant basketball coach, and said Sunday’s tragedy makes you think a little bit about human mortality.
“That really threw me,” he said. “You always think legends never die but everyone has an expiration on our time card. It’ a sad day in the sports world.”
Former Gateway Coach Bob Baker, for whom the Panthers’ gym floor is named, expressed shock Sunday.
“The man did so much for the game of basketball,” he said. “It’s so very sad because he had so much more to give as well.”
Bryant’s reach was far and wide. UCF men’s coach Johnny Dawkins had a decade-long NBA career, making his exist as Kobe was entering the league in 1996.
“I’m in shock and extremely saddened about the passing of one of the most inspiring young men I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and working with,” Dawkins said. “Kobe was one of the best competitors I ever met and he was an unbelievable person. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Steve Clifford is the head coach of the Orlando Magic, who Kobe and the Lakers defeated in five games to win the 2009 NBA title.
“One of the great winners of all time. He was relentless in his pursuit of being the greatest of all time, and put in the work,” he said. “It’s a tough day for our league. There’s not many guys like him.”
And there’s this from Boston Celtics play-by-play voice Sean Grande, who watched Kobe and the Lakers beat Boston for the 2010 title, Bryant’s fifth and final one, in a classic seven-game series. It’s a quote summing up Kobe’s appeal and respect around the NBA community:
“As Celtics fans, we didn’t think Kobe Bryant could break our hearts one more time. We were wrong.”