COLUMBIA, S.C. — Basketball players at W.J. Keenan High School shared their thoughts on the passing of NBA Legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.
Many of the players, who witnessed pivotal moments in Bryant's career, said they couldn't believe Bryant and his daughter passed away.
"I didn't want to believe it at first. He taught so many people so many different things. He was a major influence on everyone, even adults," said Jazian Gortman, who plays forward on the boys basketball team.
In his 20-year NBA career, Bryant won five NBA Championships (2000-2002, 2009, 2010), two NBA finals MVPs (2009, 2010), the NBA 's Most Valuable Player award in 2008, and was also an 18-time NBA All-Star (1998, 2000-2016). Many consider him to be one of the greatest players in NBA History, along with LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"He meant a lot to the basketball world as a whole," says Dyani Burke, who plays shooting guard for Keenan. "Kobe's a different player. Nobody will ever have the fight and desire that he had."
One of Bryant's all-time performances came in his final game in 2016. In the game, Bryant scored 60 points, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz. In the 4th quarter of the game, Bryant outscored the entire Utah Jazz team 23-21, leading the Lakers to victory. At the age of 37, he became the oldest player to score 60 points in an NBA game.
"He was just great on and off the court, somebody you could look up to. He was just an icon and a Legend," said Raekwon Horton, who plays on the boys basketball team at Keenan.
After retirement, Bryant became a children's author and a filmmaker, ultimately winning an Academy Award for his film 'Dear Basketball.'
He was also a fan and advocate for women's basketball, where he was often seen at games with his daughter Gianna right by his side.
"It really meant a lot to me that he supported women's basketball," says Tamayra Davis, who plays forward for the Raiders women's basketball team. "You see a lot of men support girls but not like he did. It really helped a lot having someone as great him by our side."
Bryant is survived by three daughters and his wife Vanessa, as well as his parents, his siblings, friends and other relatives.