Cal Basketball: Heartbroken Paris Austin on Kobe Bryant - 'He was my Michael Jordan'

Jeff Faraudo

On what should have been a purely joyful day for the Cal basketball team, the death of NBA icon Kobe Bryant cast a pall over everything on Sunday.

After the Bears scored a 52-50 win over rival Stanford before a season-high crowd 9,168 fans at Haas Pavilion, the game's hero spoke from the heart about Bryant, who died in a helicopter accident Sunday morning at the age of 41.

Senior guard Paris Austin won the game by making a pair of tie-breaking free throws with 3.2 seconds left. Coach Mark Fox praised Austin's performance, which included a game-high 15 points, four assists, two steals and just one turnover in 35 minutes on the floor.

But Austin addressed a question about the former Los Angeles Lakers star with sober words.

“It’s very sad,” Austin said. “Growing up, Kobe was my (Michael) Jordan. It was a hard pill to swallow for me.”

Teammate Kareem South echoed Austin's thoughts about Bryant.

“I grew up watching Kobe,” South added. “It’s really shocking. Still doesn’t really feel real. He was such an inspiration. His work-ethic was insane.”

South and Austin both share their thoughts about Bryant in the video above.

Fox began his portion of the post-game news conference by offering his condolences to the Bryant family. 

He said he talked with the Bears before the game about the news, and related a story about the time several years back when his father died and he had to decide whether to coach that night.

He went ahead and worked the game because that's what his dad would have expected. Fox told Cal's players their effort in this game could honor Bryant, a ferociously hard-working player.