Elite High School/College Players Talk Kobe Bryant's Impact

Kobe Bryant's Passing Impacted Elite High School Basketball Players Who Say They're Adopting the 'Mamba Mentality'
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Seven months after the deaths of NBA icon Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, the sting continues to linger, but on on Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles and Orange County, the focus on social media was all about honoring the late Lakers star.

In 2016, Los Angeles declared Aug. 24 as Kobe Bryant Day on the date of the jersey numbers he wore with the team. Bryant wore the No. 8 his first 10 seasons and 24 for the final 10.

Bryant and Gianna, along with seven other people, were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Los Angeles on Jan. 26.

The outpouring of reflections stretched deep into the high school and college basketball world where Bryant was loved and revered.

SI caught up with a handful of elite high school and college players and had them share the impact Bryant had on their lives and games.

Jaemyn Brakefield, SF

College: Duke

“What Kobe did for me was by watching him, he gave me a mindset to constantly always try to be the best version of myself. He had a mindset and work ethic like no other. Every day, his ‘Mamba mentality’ gives me the urge to be better today than I was yesterday.”

Greg Brown, F

College: Texas

“Kobe’s impact on me was to be a role model on and off the court, showing me how to carry myself as a pro. He also taught me to keep going; even if you mess up really bad. Because it’s human for us to mess up, but it’s not human to mess up and come back even stronger. That’s that ‘Mamba mentality.'”

Cam Thomas, SG

College: LSU

“He impacted my game in every way you can think of; fade away jumpers, post ups… I watch his highlights all the time before games and after games when I’m bored and have nothing to do. I never got the chance to meet him so that hurts me, but he was my Superman and I’m gonna miss him dearly.”

Sharife Cooper, PG

College: Auburn

“Kobe made an impact on everybody whether you liked his game or not. His drive and work ethic were something not everyone was willing to do. He set the bar for what it takes to get to his level so watching from afar I try to use his same attention to detail and drive for the game with mine. I've never met him, I wish I would have, but his imprint on the game will always be with me and the rest of the basketball community.”

Harrison Ingram, St. Mark’s (Dallas), 2021, G/F

College: Undecided

“I never really started studying him until this year. I started trying to implement some of the things from his game into my game. I was going to go to Mamba Skills Academy this summer to do some workouts so this is just devastating to me. He was so great in everything on and off the court, and I just don’t think basketball will ever be the same.”

Cliff Omoruyi, C

College: Rutgers

“Kobe motivated me as a basketball player through his quotes and some of his motivational videos. One of my favorite Kobe quotes is: “Believe in yourself, no one is going to do it for you.” Most people think that I’m elite because I’m tall, not knowing the work I put in. Kobe always worked harder than the best and worked to get better every day.”

Michael Foster, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix), 2021, F

College: Undecided

“I loved his drive on the court, but I loved all of his success after the game. The fact that he always got to the gym first and was the last to leave is something I try and do too. I got that from Kobe.”