Illinois State women’s basketball coach Kristen Gillespie said Kobe Bryant was a childhood hero for many of her players, and his death is a reminder to make every day count.
News of Bryant’s death broke just before the start of Sunday’s Redbird women’s basketball game against Northern Iowa. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash in California. In all, eight passengers and one pilot died in the crash.
Gillespie said a lot of her players were visibly shaken by the news.
“That’s their childhood hero. Mine was Michael Jordan. This generation’s is Kobe,” Gillespie said. “We just reminded each other of how fleeting life is.”
Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 seasons and is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history.
“We get so caught up in a basketball game and winning and losing. But make sure you tell people (you love them). You never know. I’m sure Kobe Bryant didn’t wake up today with his daughter and think, ‘Today might be my last day,’” Gillespie said. “It’s tough. In our profession, in these guys’ world, it’s usually not at the forefront. You’re not worrying about that. It’s a great reminder of how blessed we are, and let’s make the most of it.”