By Preston Byers
The sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant had an immediate and substantial impact on basketball fans, players and many others. Youngstown State University is no exception.
To many people, Bryant was more than simply a basketball player. He was a role model, an inspiration and a figure of nearly mythical status. At 17, he was drafted straight out of high school and the rest, as they say, is history.
Bryant was an 18-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion, league MVP for the 2007-2008 season and a two-time NBA Finals MVP, in addition to many other accolades collected throughout his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He also stands at the fourth all-time highest in NBA points, being passed in the standings by LeBron James, a friend and current Laker, just a day before Bryant’s death.
Many of the current YSU men’s and women’s basketball players idolized Bryant, whether he was on or off the court. Junior guard McKenah Peters said his support for women’s sports meant the most to her.
“He did so much for women’s sports, and there’s just no one like him. It’s hard to see him go,” Peters said. “I’d say my favorite interview of his was when Jimmy Fallon asked Kobe how his girls were going to carry on his legacy because he didn’t have a son. And he said, ‘I’m a girl dad. I’m super proud of it. And one of my daughters will carry on my basketball legacy.’”
She also said he influenced the way she and many of her teammates approach the game.
“He’s known for his ‘Mamba Mentality,’ and every time I step foot on the court, I try to take pride in working harder than everyone else,” Peters said. “As long as you’re working harder than everyone, you can put forth the effort, and you can do good things on the court. And I just take pride in that and just working in the offseason and just doing the extra work. Kobe always did that. He was literally the hardest worker ever.”
Peters is not the only player expressing the impact of “Mamba Mentality.” In fact, it’s a common theme among YSU players to speak about their basketball idol’s unique mindset.
Freshman guard Taylor Petit said Bryant meant a lot to her and her family. He was not only her favorite player but her father’s as well. So when her father approached her after YSU’s game against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Jan. 26, she was stunned with the message he carried.
“My dad walked onto the court as I was walking off, and he just mentioned how Kobe passed away in a helicopter accident,” Petit said. “I didn’t believe it was true. … But I saw the tears in his eyes, and that’s when I knew.”
Petit and Peters both use Bryant’s work ethic as inspirations for their own basketball careers.
Sophomore guard Tyler Foster, whose father also idolized Bryant, said “Mamba Mentality” was his favorite part about Bryant.
“What other people thought, it didn’t bother him at all,” Foster said. “And I just love that about Kobe. I wish I could do like him. Kobe’s just great. Kobe was great.”
To sophomore guard Darius Quisenberry, “Mamba Mentality” means determination in every facet of life.
“He really showed everybody what work ethic is,” Quisenberry said. “I think he showed everybody, not just basketball players, if you really love something you need to put your all into it and great things will come.”
The accomplishments of Kobe Bryant will be etched in history. From his 81-point performance to his final 60-point game, the game of basketball is synonymous with number 24. So, in memory of Kobe, if you have a crumpled piece of paper and a trash can nearby, you know what to do.