Head Coach Kenrick Liburd (Right) and the Captain of the Nottingham Wildcats Siobhán Prior (Left) pay tribute to the late Kobe Bryant

As I walk into the Nottingham Wildcats arena in Sneinton amidst the tragic news that Kobe Bryant – the former shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and one of the greatest basketball players to ever live had tragically died, I feel an overwhelmingly heart-wrenching atmosphere.

The arena mostly empty and distilled in silence shows me how sad this day is, not just for basketball fans but, sport fans all around the world.

Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday January 26 outside Los Angeles at the very young age of 41.

He was flying among 8 other people including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant when the helicopter crashed in a remote field in Calabasas, California. All of which were killed.

Head Coach, Kenrick Liburd, aged 39, makes it clear that he always looked up to Kobe as a game changer in the sport that he was a part of and as someone who has had a global impact in other sports as well. He says that:

“As a coach and, as someone being involved in the game, he was one of the most competitive and driven human beings we have seen in the generation. He was someone so driven on impacting basketball for the better and as a tool and that to me is something impressive.”

While stating what his earliest memory of Kobe is – I gather that from the way the Head Coach was describing how the legend handled a poor performance in his first ever game regardless of all the expectations and hype around a high schooler going the distance – that Kenrick idolised his mentality and dedication from day one.

He goes on to say that as a father to one, his death makes him reflect on some crucial things as a dad and a person.

“It’s made me think about time and what’s promised to us. It makes me think about my little girl and how much time i spend with her.”

Kenrick lIBURD, 39, hEAD coACH OF NOTTINGHAM WILDCATS

“It’s made me think about time and what’s promised to us. It makes me think about my little girl and how much time I spend with her.”

Whilst I gather myself after a heartfelt tribute, in walks the Captain of the Nottingham Wildcats, Siobhán Prior, aged 32. She’s teary eyed and visibly upset from the news it seems in which I ask her what he meant to her personally. She says:

“Personally he meant that it was okay to compete. I think as a woman in sport sometimes when you toe the line of competitiveness people often try and down play the congratulations.”

Siobhán holds out a hand to others greatly affected by Kobe’s passing who might think that their emotional reaction is not warranted or “ridiculous”. She believes that these public figures such as Kobe can impact you and your life possibly more than people you spend every day with.

“He was one of the superstars that really – with the media coverage he got – used that platform in a positive way.”

Siobhán Prior, 32, dIRECTOR OF NOTTINGHAM WILDCATS

“He was one of the superstars that really – with the media coverage he got – used that platform in a positive way.”

I then ask her whether there are enough role models in the basketball industry that young people growing up today will have a figure as pivotal as him to look up to.

There’s a sudden pause by her and the basketball gym falls silent as she contemplates her answer. She takes a deep breath.

“I think there will be. Athletes like him have really brought the idea of what it means to be an athlete. You can’t just bounce, hit or kick a ball or, just play within the lines. Because if you do that well enough the spotlight is on you by the media and the fans in which you then have this responsibility to the rest of the sporting world as a whole.”

“Regardless of what sport they are playing you need to show them how to play, how to respect the game and, how to give to it and that’s something that I think he did really well.”

One thing that catches my ear particularly is how she expressed that Kobe was always a man and a father who always lived in the moment and never in hindsight. He did everything in the moment she tells me and that’s what was most amazing about him.

“It’s also what makes his death all the more ironic as he died so young but also all the more poetic that he still no matter how cut short his life was, he never wasted a moment.”

Personally, I think that’s one of the more important aspects of Kobe. By talking to both Kenrick and Siobhán I learnt that Kobe was a man of great importance in not only the sporting world but also, the world as a whole. He lived his life as a role model and as someone that would pave the way for future generations in sport.

Bryant was a 5 time NBA champion, 2 time NBA finals MVP and, an 18 time NBA All-Star.

He scored a whopping 25 Points Per Game, 5.2 Rebounds Per Game and, 4.7 Assists Per Game.

He played his entire 20-season career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Los Angeles Lakers.

To learn more about the Nottingham Wildcats Basketball team click here.