NBA Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died at the age of 41 on this day 366 days ago, alongside his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash. Even in death, the 5-time NBA champion’s “Mamba Mentality” motto of “just trying to get better every day and trying to get better at whatever you’re doing” still resonates loud and clear all the way to Fort Worth, Texas.
TCU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jamie Dixon, a Hollywood native who attended high school at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California before playing at TCU in the 1980’s, grew up in Southern California in the years when John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins were the cause of pulling people toward the sport of basketball. Dixon has said on multiple occasions that those teams were what inspired him to pursue a career in basketball.
Yet, Dixon still feels Bryant’s impact in his program despite the geographical distance and not having a personal relationship with the NBA’s 4th-most prolific scorer, because Bryant became that gravitational pull to the game of basketball for many of his players today.
“I don’t have a great personal story that I can think of since when he got to Los Angeles, my coaching career had since taken me out of Southern California,” Jamie Dixon said, “I’ve always been amazed at how much he impacted players because they really think of him as their guy. Even prior to his passing, that was the case. His impact just led to so many idolizing him. There are so many great players, but as the NBA has gotten so big, and he was winning championships with Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] and then won some without him. He became a guy that players have really emulated.”
Past Horned Frogs like Memphis Grizzlies rookie guard Desmond Bane and current Horned Frogs like guard RJ Nembhard and center Kevin Samuel have named the “Black Mamba” as some of their most inspirational figures.
“His passing was so tragic and unique, which almost leads to his legacy growing even more in his passing,” Dixon said. “His impact in Los Angeles and the game of basketball is remarkable, no question about it.”