Aztecs pay tribute following the death of Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna

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Aaron Tolentino

Senior center Zayn Dornstauder honors Kobe Bryant by writing on her sneakers “Mamba Mentality.”

by Cristian Alvarez, Staff Writer

Six days have passed since the world was shaken by tragedy.

Nine people, including Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, were killed in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California on the morning of Jan. 26.

Millions have mourned the loss of Bryant who is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

During warm-ups before San Diego State women’s basketball game against New Mexico on Jan. 29, many players and coaches wore one of Bryant’s signature Nike shoes.

Some had messages written in support for both Kobe and his daughter Gianna, who Kobe called “Mambacita.”

Sophomore guard Sophia Ramos had a separate inscription on each shoe to honor both Kobe and Gianna.

 


Before tip-off, a moment of silence was held inside Viejas Arena to honor Kobe, Gianna and the other victims.

After the team introductions, Aztecs head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson told her players in the huddle to enjoy their moments playing basketball.

“I asked them to close their eyes and remember that little girl who was playing basketball for the fun of it,” Terry-Hutson said. “We talked about enjoying road trips, your teammates, being silly and those workouts where basketball wasn’t as strict.”

Then minutes after defeating the Lobos 75-74, SDSU players gave their reactions to the news.

“We all were pretty emotional,” senior guard Taylor Kalmer said. “I think we’re cherishing our moments a little bit more. It’s always sad that has to happen after a loss but we are learning to maximize our time, talents and treasures that God gave us.”

After playing two decades on the hardwood floor, the five-time NBA champion’s post-basketball career had just begun since his retirement in 2016.

Bryant wanted to pass his knowledge on to the next generation.

For example, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum worked out with Bryant during the summer after his first season in the NBA.

Bryant also advocated for the ongoing growth of women’s basketball and used his platform to show support.

Bryant would often post on social media congratulating female players for their achievements.

“(Kobe) was a huge champion for women’s basketball, and he will be greatly missed because in my opinion, he made it cool for girls to play hoops,” Terry-Hutson said.

It wasn’t uncommon to see Bryant sitting courtside at games with his second-oldest daughter Gianna.

She shared the same passion and drive like her father.

There were no doubts in Bryant’s eyes that “Mambacita” was next in line to carry the family legacy.

“What I’m most impressed by what I’ve seen over the past three years was his dedication to his family,” Terry-Hutson said. “That’s what I’ll remember and admire. His dedication to his family and his baby girls. It’s something all men should strive to be.”

Ramos’ relationship with her father is similar to Gianna and Kobe’s, which made their loss harder to take in.

Like Gianna, Ramos’ first coach was also her father.

“For me, I think it hit a little more because my dad was my first coach also,” Ramos said.

Players across basketball have honored the victims in various ways, many choosing to switch their numbers to informally retire the ones worn by Kobe and Gianna.

Lakers guard Quinn Cook changed his number from two to 28 because he said the previous number belongs to Gianna.

Orlando Magic guard/forward Terrence Ross switched his jersey number from eight back to 31, which was Ross’s original number when he started his career.

Ramos, who wears number two on the Aztecs, said she has chosen to keep the same number as a way to honor the Bryant family.

“A lot of people have been retiring or switching numbers to honor them,” Ramos said. “But I feel like me being the player I am, getting to wear (Gianna’s) number and (Kobe’s) shoes is going to be a good way to honor them.”

In addition to Gianna, two more 13-year-old girls, Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli, were lost in the crash.

All three were members on the Mamba Sports Academy girls club basketball team.

Junior guard Téa Adams said their win against New Mexico was dedicated to those girls and Kobe.

Adams also wrote messages on her shoes (left) to honor both Kobe and Gianna.

“Today, we played for the little girls who died that dreamed of playing college basketball but will never get the chance,” Adams told the Daily Aztec. “And of course for Kobe, who we all looked up to growing up being young athletes who had a dream.”

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