As the Waxahachie High School’s Runnin’ Indians prepared for basketball practice on Monday, their pep talk focused on NBA icon Kobe Bryant who died Sunday.
Chad Rogers, a local student minister who visits the team each week, and Coach Greg Gober reminded the players, many of whom held the Los Angeles Lakers star as their idol, they should never take a single moment for granted.
“You’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” said Rogers as he sought to encourage the team. “Take every advantage of every day and to live it to the fullest.”
Rogers, who is associated with The Avenue Church, explained it was okay to be angry, especially since the community was already grieving the death of Spencer Nobles, a student at Coleman Junior High. The 15-year-old was shot and killed last Thursday, according to police.
“That’s a typical response to death; you’re ticked off, right? You’re mad about the situation,” Rogers admitted. “The key to going through this process is to be open to communicating your feelings with each other.”
Bryant’s untimely death was a hard blow for Abraham “AB” Shorter, 18, who wears jersey no. 24, which was also worn by the NBA player.
“He was my favorite player, somebody that I always looked up to, somebody I want to be like,” the 6’5’’ senior guard articulated. “He’s an idol, he’s a legend. He will always be a legend. That’s why I wear that number. I don’t wear it just to wear it. I wear it because I want to be just like him.”
For Sammy Kaoud, 18, the tragedy hit close to home because he is originally from Los Angeles.
“Kobe was my favorite player and, to me, he was the best player right next to Michael Jordan,” the senior power forward argued. “He was my idol, too. My favorite team is the Celtics, but I put that aside, the rivalry, because you have to respect his game. He’s the best player.”
Rogers said his speech to the boys was to motivate them to “make an impact” and “leave a legacy.”
“These guys looked up to Kobe…,” the student minister said. “These guys, growing up, have watched him, so, just talking about his death and what it means to them and just allowing them to express some of their feelings, how it has affected them, but also pushing them to pursue that greatness like they’ve seen in Kobe.”
Bryant and eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, died when his helicopter crashed into a mountainside in Calabasas, California. Investigators are working to determine if the weather played a role as visibility was reportedly poor due to fog.