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Furman athletic community reacts to death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant

Gianna and Kobe Bryant
Gianna “Gigi” Bryant and her father, Kobe, at the WNBA All-Star Game on July 27, 2019. Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The shocking death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant on Sunday morning in a helicopter crash that also killed eight other people, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, has elicited a torrent of emotional reactions from across the world of sports as people struggle to come to grips with the loss of one of the most electric players the game of basketball has ever seen. Bryant, who had four daughters, was known for his support of women’s basketball, which is something former WNBA player Rushia Brown ’94 saw first hand as player programs and franchise development manager of the Las Vegas Aces.

“He was a legend and icon, but in his post-career he had become such an ambassador for the women’s game,” Brown said in an email. “He brought Gigi (the family’s nickname for Gianna) and her team to our season opener last year and brought them all in the locker room to meet all the Aces players. We had just reached out to him to get sizes to send them gear for the 2019 season. We had players that were flying out to work with him at the Mamba Academy. His impact on the game was only going to get bigger, and I, along with the rest of the world, will mourn this great leader.”

Kim Bohuny ’84, the NBA’s senior vice president for international basketball operations, met Bryant when he represented the U.S. on two Olympic teams. Like many others, she marveled at his competitiveness and determination to improve.

“Working for the NBA and serving on the USA Basketball Board of Directors provided me the honor of getting to know Kobe Bryant,” Bohuny said in an email. “During the 2008 Olympics in China and the 2012 Olympics in London, I was able to witness his incredible work ethic and drive to be the best at his craft.  Not only was he the last to leave practice each morning, he would then lift weights in the afternoon and get extra shots up each night. Always pushing himself to be the best prepared before the next game.”

Bohuny echoed Brown’s observation about Bryant’s focus on boosting the women’s game in retirement.

“We not only lost a basketball icon but someone who was committed to helping the next generation of basketball players, especially young women,” she added.

Brown, Furman’s all-time leading scorer, said Bryant’s death left her “numb.” Other current and former Paladin athletes like soccer great Clint Dempsey ’05, Jordan Lyons ’20, who currently leads the men’s team in scoring, and women’s coach Jackie Smith Carson ’00 were similarly moved:


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