WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW)- For area high school basketball players, reactions to Kobe Bryant’s death were similar to the rest of the world’s: shock.
Wausau East basketball head coach Troy Pieper wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey at Wausau East High School on January 27, 2020. (WSAW)
"We pulled it up on Instagram, and it said 'Kobe Bryant: Dead.’"
"My mom told me she's like 'Kobe died'. I was like 'you're joking, that didn't happen.’"
A day after Bryant's shocking death, practices resumed in central and north-central Wisconsin. It was a day of mourning and remembrance for a giant of the game.
"I guess I didn't realize how many people, like just famous people and people outside of sports just really appreciated him as a person,” said Lauren Shields, a senior guard at Newman Catholic.
Bryant's 13-year old daughter Gianna was also killed in the helicopter crash. In retirement, Kobe spent countless hours molding her into a star of her own, and promoting the growth of women's basketball. That struck home with the Newman Catholic Lady Cardinals.
"It reminds me of the relationship that I had with my dad,” said Julia Seidel, a guard at Newman Catholic. “I can tell like the support that he had for his daughter was the same support that my dad had for me."
Across town at Wausau East, the Lumberjacks reflected on what came to mind when thinking of the Laker legend.
"Just the work he put in, the hours that I don't think many people know,” said Ben Cayley, a senior guard for East.
Ben Reif, another senior guard for the Lumberjacks explained: "All through grade school, middle school, every time you throw something into a trash bin, playing basketball, what do you yell? ‘Kobe’, because you know it's going to fall if you yell that man’s name."
Whether it's between the ears.
"Mamba mentality, Mamba mentality,” Reif says of what comes to mind thinking of Bryant. “Just being confident in your game, and being confident in yourself on and off the court."
Or on their two feet.
Shields says: "I'm wearing his shoes right now."
It's clear that Kobe Bean Bryant left an imprint on the next generation of young basketball players that will live forever.
"No matter your gender, how tall you are, how big of a school you go to, anything like that,” said Sheilds. “There's no limits to your dreams."