RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - VCU and Richmond hit the practice court on Monday to get ready for Tuesday’s rivalry showdown, still stunned by the untimely death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
The Rams were practicing when the news of Bryant’s passing broke on Sunday afternoon, while the Spiders learned before their workout. Chris Mooney and his team held a meeting prior to hitting the floor.
“I had a big fat head up on my wall since I was like eight or nine, so every day before I went to bed, just talk to Kobe,” said Richmond junior guard Nick Sherod, who said Bryant was his favorite player growing up. “I remember some of my roughest times growing up, I used to come home and watch Kobe highlights.”
“My favorite player was Allen Iverson, and those two battles, it’s crazy,” added VCU senior guard Mike’l Simms. “I just loved watching them. They competed against each other all the time. Kobe was the next Michael Jordan in my opinion.”
Bryant hailed from Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and attended Lower Merion High School. Both VCU head coach Mike Rhoades and Spider lead man Chris Mooney are also natives of the Keystone State and crossed paths with the superstar when he was still in high school. Mooney was a counselor at La Salle’s basketball camp, where Bryant’s father was an assistant coach and would see Kobe around during the camp. Rhoades, meanwhile, recalls watching Bryant in the 1996 state championship game, and while the superstar dominated the contest, what stuck out the most to Rhoades was his one-on-one routine at halftime.
“He was out there playing one-on-one with one of his teammates,” the Rams’ head coach recalled. “They were going as hard at each other as he was playing in the game, and I’ve always told that story. You could tell just how much he loved the game of basketball.”
“You couldn’t believe that somebody so young could be so talented and just better than everybody already,” remembered Mooney. “Super confident, but also relentless and an incredible player.”
The Laker legend’s reach stretched far beyond the NBA. He was a global ambassador of the game and would support basketball of all levels for all ages.
“Kobe Bryant loved people who loved the game,” said Rhoades. “It didn’t matter who it was. It was not just NBA basketball or college basketball. It was global for him.”
The Rams and Spiders are joining the world in mourning an icon and a role model. Kobe Bryant’s life was cut short with so much already accomplished, but with so much more to achieve.
“It’s a really tragic thing,” said Mooney. “He was obviously incredibly young, but it also seemed that he would have an amazing next 40 years also.”
“For a lot of people watching him over those 20 years, it’s pretty crazy,” Rhoades added. “It just tells you how precious life is.”
The NBA announced on Monday evening that Tuesday’s scheduled game between the Lakers and Clippers has been postponed until a date to be determined.
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