SALT LAKE CITY — Twenty-four hours is not enough. It’s not enough to recover from the hurt felt after losing No. 24.
Kobe Bryant’s shocking death on Sunday shook the NBA community to its core and on Monday morning, ahead of the Utah Jazz’s game against the Houston Rockets, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder held back tears and had trouble finding the right words to properly express how much Bryant meant to him and the league as a whole.
“He touched so many people in so many different ways and I was fortunate to be one of those people,” Snyder said. “His authenticity was something that was so unique, just a unique human being. There’s a lot of people that have commented more eloquently than I can right now.”
Snyder’s relationship with Bryant goes back to 2011, when as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers he bonded with Bryant. That friendship endured even after Snyder departed from L.A. the following year, so much so that Bryant advocated for Snyder being named coach of the year in 2018.
“I’ve been a big Q guy forever … and the job that he has done seems like it’s going under the radar, which, why, I have no idea,” Bryant told USA Today Sports. “But if there was ever even a doubt as to who should be coach of the year, the people who are second-guessing that need to have their voting credentials removed.”
In his short time with the Lakers, Snyder said he was tremendously impacted by Bryant and learned a great deal from the legendary guard.
Donovan Mitchell noted that Snyder has mentioned things here and there about his time around Bryant and that anyone who spent time with Bryant, his teammates Ed Davis and Jordan Clarkson included, came away with a deeper appreciation for what it takes to truly be great.
“Just watching how he dictates a practice,” Mitchell said of lessons people have learned from Bryant. “You may have something drawn up or have the final segment scheduled to go five minutes but he makes it so competitive that it’s 15 or 20 minutes and guys are going after it. ... That’s a leader doing that.”
Mitchell said he at first thought and hoped that news of the helicopter crash that took the lives of nine people including Bryant and his daughter Gianna was just a sick joke or hoax. Slowly, as it became more apparent that the news was real and Bryant was in fact gone, it made it tough to even think about basketball.
Rather than watch any of the basketball games on Sunday night, it was easier for Mitchell to push it all away and just play video games.
“It was just something so routine, if you know Kobe, you know that’s how he gets around, and then to find out his daughter was with him as well,” Mitchell said. “It hasn’t really hit.”
That was how many felt on Sunday as stories, videos, interviews and memories were shared across television and digital platforms from the moment the news broke until late into the night.
Bryant’s career spanned multiple eras of basketball and sparked a new generation of fans. Mitchell noted that when he was growing up, you either belonged to team LeBron James or team Kobe Bryant.
Mitchell has said many times before that he was a James fan before becoming an NBA player himself. But, after coming into the league, it was impossible to ignore Bryant’s influence, or to not watch tape and study Bryant’s game.
Because of the enormity of Bryant’s legacy, his death seemed to leave the basketball world feeling empty, and for Mitchell, it didn’t feel right.
Others, like Davis, who was once signed with Rob Pelinka (then Bryant’s agent, now the Lakers general manager), couldn’t help but sit in front of the TV and watch as Bryant was memorialized throughout the day, but only after he made sure to take a moment to appreciate life.
“When I found out his daughter was on the chopper that’s when it hit ... she was always so happy, always smiling, just had so much joy. Not taking anything from Kobe, but a 13-year-old not getting to experience a lot of things in life is sad,” Davis said. “I went home and hugged my kids, my wife and everybody else in the house.”
More than anything, Snyder and the Jazz players said Bryant’s work ethic and his competitive nature — traits that were synonymous with Bryant — are what they’ll remember the most.
Davis said he looked back through texts he has from Bryant from their time on the Lakers and that even in 2014, when the Lakers were not expected to be remotely competitive, Bryant was texting Davis about winning a championship.
“He was probably like the only one in the world that thought that team could win a championship. We (were) a 20-win team at best,” Davis said. “His mindset was on another level, and I’ve played with a lot of superstars, guys that are going to be in the Hall of Fame, first-team All-NBA guys, but he definitely separated himself from everyone else.”
There is no shortage of examples of Bryant’s reach and impact on the game of basketball. During his 20-year career Bryant became a global icon to the point that even Rudy Gobert knew who Bryant was.
While growing up in France, Gobert admitted he knew very little about the NBA and its players outside of watching “Space Jam,” but he saw Bryant jerseys everywhere, which put the Lakers guard on Gobert’s radar long before coming to the U.S.
“Kobe inspired all of us as young kids,” Gobert said. “Back in France he was one of the few guys that was in the spotlight. He was in his prime and as kids everyone looked up to Kobe.”
Though Bryant is gone, he is not forgotten and there will still be kids who look up to him and are inspired by his game.