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Saipan also mourns Lakers great Kobe Bryant’s passing

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The basketball world woke up yesterday with the tragic news of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s untimely passing after the helicopter he was onboard crashed in a hillside in Calabasas, California. In the chopper with Bryant was his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. All died in the helicopter crash.

More than 9,000 kilometers away on Saipan, hoop fans took to social media to express their feelings of loss and grieve in their own way the passing of the 41-year-old five-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP. There were callbacks to his 81-point scoring binge against the Toronto Raptors, his love-hate relationship with Shaquille O’Neal, his championship-or-bust mantra after Shaq was shipped to Miami, there were even some who shared his Oscar-winning “Dear Basketball” animated short film, and his 60-point final game before retirement at the Staples Center.

Almost everyone also alluded to Bryant’s dogged work ethic and discipline to rise above challenges, a philosophy that soon became known as Mamba Mentality. But what’s really heartbreaking is Bryant died a short three years after retirement, at a time when he was just starting to enjoy family life with his lovely wife Vanessa and three daughters Bianka, Gianna, Natalia, and Capri. He even coached Gianna, affectionately called Gigi, in her high school basketball team and were flying to her game when tragedy struck. Gianna herself was a prodigy in basketball and was thought to be the next coming of the Black Mamba in the WNBA before her life too was cut short.

Los Angeles Clipper coach Doc Rivers eloquently sums up what everyone felt following Bryant’s tragic demise that “We’re all Lakers today.” Below are some thoughts of Bryant’s local fans after his passing:

Lee

“Man, I’m just still in shock. He’s not only my idol in basketball but I also look up to him for his perspective in life. In many ways he was my mentor. His mottos was always no excuse in life and you work hard for what you want. I’m just so sad that he passed away at such a young age and to top it off, his daughter also passed away. As a father that added in the pain.”
—James Lee
Hoopaholics founder

Del Rosario

His dedication, discipline, and relentless effort to become a better man will always remain with me. A true life icon. We will never hear his Hall of Fame speech. The legacy Kobe Bryant leaves behind will always be remembered and celebrated.
—Norman Del Rosario
MP United technical director

Angeles

“Just in shock that someone so iconic is gone too soon. A legend that will never be forgotten.”
—Raymond Angeles
Former CNMI national bowler

Duenas

“I’m really sad now! Kobe in my books is second to MJ ! I grew up watching Kobe and I like to say that he is my idol! Kobe you will never be forgotten!
—Matthew Duenas
Shirley’s Coffee Shop player

Ada

“Feel horrible for their family not only losing a husband and a father but a sister/daughter. Doing grocery shopping now and everyone in Hawaii seems to be talking about it. Random people in the elevator and store clerks all saying ‘hey bro, you hear about Kobe…’ very sad.”
—Oscar Ada
Former CNMI national basketball player

Rivera

Waking up to this tragic news I was so shocked. Very sad I was hoping it was fake news. As a Celtics fan he was a top opponent you always look forward to watching. As sports fan and NBA fanatic in general, my heart is simply broken today a day after the NBA world and Lakerland celebrated Lebron’s passing Kobe at third in the all-time scoring list. Sad, sad day for all of the sports world.
—Charlie Rivera
NMPASI board member

Bautista

“Kobe revolutionized the game of basketball with his offensive skill set and his legendary Mamba Mentality. He was the reason why I wore the No. 8 back in high school when I played for Mount Carmel. He was the reason why I love the game of basketball because he treated it more than just a game. By his sheer example alone, he taught me about work ethic, perseverance, and greatness in one’s craft and how applicable those three values are in life. My favorite memories of him include Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, when he won his fifth and final championship in LA against the Celtics and his final game, where he scored 60 points in another one of his trademark clutch performances—the perfect ending to an amazing career. I just wished I could have heard his Hall of Fame speech to gain some additional inspiration about basketball and on life. The impact he had on me and on the sports world is profound and will be forever remembered.”
—Kevin Bautista
Governor’s Office spokesperson

Zapata

Speechless…Unreal! The tragic news just doesn’t want to sink in yet… it’s such a shock! I wouldn’t have believed it until I watched it on CNN today.
—Amor Zapata
IT&E masters player

Albert

“It’s sad to see the passing of one of the best ever to play the game of basketball. He inspired me and for sure millions to work hard, stay determined, focus, and strive for your goals. The Mamba Mentality he brought to the game was not just for basketball but for life in general! To be the greatest you have to think and work to be one! Kobe Bryant will forever be an icon and true legend.
—Clint Albert
Eats Easy playing coach

Babauta

“One of the greatest. The basketball world lost one of its greatest. I’m still in shock. Condolences to the Bryant family. Just wow. And only 41.
—Mike Babauta
Saipan World Resort Sales & Marketing manager

Pelisamen

“Devastated I can’t even believe it.”
—Freddie Pelisamen
Former CNMI basketball player

Blanco

“Tragic. I am pretty shocked. Not the kind of news you want to wake up to. All the more heartbreaking knowing that his daughter also passed away in the crash.”
—John Blanco
Commonwealth Football League Association chairman

Cosino

“I was just shocked and surprised when I heard of Kobe’s passing this morning.”
—Ed Cosino
Former semi-professional basketball player in the Philippines.

“Tragic to hear this morning. He’s the guy that a lot in our generation look up to and affect a lot of people’s lives and how they played because of how he plays basketball. I always tell our boys that life can be gone in a blink of an eye. You don’t know your day. If the Lord calls you home, then it’s time for you to go. It’s really sad. Kobe, he’s a legend and he will forever stay a legend in our hearts. The love for basketball brings us all together. It doesn’t matter if you live in the United States or a tiny island like Saipan. I taught many of my players his moves. It’s just really sad and heart-breaking to hear this.”
—Joe Diaz
Saipan Rollers head coach

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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