Gators honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant

The news started to trickle out but it couldn’t be true. Minutes passed but it felt like hours until the worst was confirmed.

NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-yar old daughter, Gianna, along with seven others, had perished in a helicopter accident in Calabasas, California. The news rocked not only the basketball world but also the entire sports community. Kobe wasn’t just a basketball player, he was the Black Mamba, he transcended basketball.

Bryant was the ultimate competitor. He had a killer instinct, a devastating step back and an unparalleled work ethic. He was a hero to many in the game and you could see that written on the faces and shoes of several Gators on the floor Tuesday night.

Scottie Lewis’ shoes read, “Kobe Bryant this is 4 u” and Bryant’s numbers, 8 and 24, were scrawled on his each heel. The Gators laid out two of Bryant’s jerseys on their bench during warmups and they remained there until tipoff.

Scottie came out of the gates playing inspired basketball. The freshman score Florida’s first seven points and 10 of their first 12.

“He was super impactful to my life as far as my mindset and compassion that I played with and how hard I work off the floor,” Lewis said of Bryant after the game. “This game was for him, really, my performance. Obviously we didn’t win and he’d probably be mad at me if he could talk to me.”

Bryant was just beginning the second phase of his life. At just 41 years old he had embraced the role of dad to his four daughters. He coached Gianna’s travel team. Her story was just beginning at only 13 years old. It’s an unimaginable tragedy and one that still is sinking in.

“I was sick to my stomach (when I heard the news). He was kind of a super hero to me. Obviously I never personally met him but growing up watching his videos and just his mindset and things like that I think is something every player and myself tries to embody. We lost a legend.

Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC