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ZACH JAMES: Kobe's impact makes its way to Sioux City

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SIOUX CITY — After the West High School boys basketball team won the tip Tuesday at home against East, all 10 players on the floor stood stationary and cheered.

I wasn’t sure what was going on at that moment, and it took me eight seconds for me to fully understand what was going on.

What was going on, exactly?

The Wolverines were taking an eight-second backcourt violation to honor the late Kobe Bryant, who along with eight other people died in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, California.

East inbounded the ball and proceeded to then take its own eight-second backcourt violation as the crowd stood and cheered the student-athletes for a noble gesture.

West coach CoCo Cofield and East coach Ras Vanderloo mutually agreed the teams could start the game with backcourt turnovers, as many college and pro teams have done throughout the week to remember Kobe’s impact on basketball.

“I’m so happy that we did that,” Cofield said. “I grew up watching Kobe. I was a big fan of Kobe and to honor him, I thought it was a good idea. I talked to my boys about the situation and how life is … each and every thing, you have to have that mamba mentality. It’s not about basketball. It’s about life.”

That wasn’t the only gesture that the Wolverines and Black Raiders made on Tuesday.

Both student sections wore purple and gold. At halftime of the boys basketball game, the Black Raiders section walked across the court to join the Wolverines students for a picture with most kids wearing Lakers colors.

The Black Raiders coaching staff also wore Kobe-branded shoes.

Admittedly, I didn’t notice the student section at first. But, I did after the two teams had eight-second penalties.

The first thing I noticed was a sign made by a young lady in the front row. It said “Kobe Forever” with the numerals “8” and “24” on each side of the poster. Another West student had a black sign with “Black Mamba” in white letters as another token of respect.

That’s when I started to realize that Bryant was that generation’s star, especially from a basketball realm. 

It just feels weird we all saw that star unexpectedly dim too soon last weekend.

I felt like Bryant was my kind of star, too.

I’m part of the generation that has been fortunate to live through the careers of Michael Jordan, Bryant and LeBron James, even though his career isn’t over yet.

The high-school aged kids — and younger, too — only have seen Bryant and James play in their lifetimes, and can't grasp the impact Jordan brought to the game in the 80s and 90s.

Sure, they can watch YouTube clips of Air Jordan, but didn’t watch his magical shot in Salt Lake City on live TV or how he brought creativity to the slam dunk contest.

That said, we can all connect through Bryant and his legacy. And, it showed Tuesday night at WHS and all around the Siouxland.

Vanderloo agreed.

“There’s just a handful of those dudes that made an impact around the world,” Vanderloo said. “We’re in Sioux City, Iowa, a long ways away, but if there’s any way you can honor him for what he’s done, I think it’s deserving.”

When Cofield learned about the news on Sunday, he was in the gym shooting. Cofield named his son, Jacobi, after Bryant and Jordan.

“I still can’t believe it, it was devastating,” Cofield said. “I just kind of stopped and thought about things. It’s hard for me. I still think about it. I still read his books and stuff. It’s really hard. But, I know what his purpose was. I’m going to try to live like him.”

Vanderloo, meanwhile, is a well-traveled coach and I wanted to ask him whether he had met Bryant. While he’s been in the same room as him twice and watched him play in-person, Vanderloo hasn’t spoken one-on-one with the late Lakers great.

Even though there wasn’t any interaction between the two, Vanderloo knew from afar how special of a player and person that Bryant was.

“The way he carried himself, he was a professional,” Vanderloo said. “He made the game better. It was historical. He’s a worldwide player. The short time we had him here, 41 years, was 41 good years.”

Then, I asked East senior Jaleque Dunson how Bryant impacted him. Dunson — whose 34 points helped East knock off the Wolverines 70-56 on Tuesday — admitted he wasn’t a fan of Bryant but respected his legacy.

“He implied himself to everything,” Dunson said. “That’s something you always look up to.”

And, I’m sure Dunson wasn’t the only young basketball player who has felt that way this week.


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