NORFOLK (WAVY) – When Bryant Stith first heard the news, he had the same reaction as just about everyone else. He didn’t believe it.
After a few minutes of scouring threw cable news, and seeing the situation unfold through social media, Stith finally came to the stunning realization that Kobe Bryant was gone.
The five-time champion, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, 17-time All-Star and Academy Award winner was one of nine victims killed in a helicopter crash about an hour outside of Los Angeles on Sunday morning. Bryant’s 13-year old daughter Gianna was also on board.
“Just absolutely stunned, and (in) disbelief,” said Stith. “It’s just not fair.”
Still the all-time leading scorer in University of Virginia history and now an assistant coach at Old Dominion, Stith played 11 NBA seasons. Six of those were at the same time Kobe played.
“How much he (Kobe Bryant) invested in the game was just legendary,” said Bryant.
As a member of the Denver nuggets for his first nine seasons, Bryant faced off against Kobe on more than a few occasions. “I was regarded as the best defensive player on the Denver nuggets team, so I had the unfortunate task of trying to stop Kobe,” he said.
At Norfolk State, Spartans head coach Robert Jones never met Kobe, and never got to play against him. Jones instead remembers Kobe, the father.
“My son was close to his daughter’s age,” said Jones on Monday. “My son is 12 and his daughter was 13. My son will be 13 this year, and to lose a child like that must be devastating to his wife Vanessa.”