LEECHBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — Kobe Bryant made a huge impression on basketball fans and players across Pittsburgh.
That impact was felt after this weekend’s tragedy.
On Sunday, a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California killed nine people — including Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter.
Notable Pittsburgh natives and athletes expressed sorrow after Bryant’s death.
But it wasn’t just the stars.
Inside the gym at Leechburg High School on Monday, players and coaches talked about how they admired Bryant for being such a strong advocate for girls and women’s basketball.
“We really try to instill that here at Central, the “Mamba Mentality,” his hard work ethic,” said Sam Salih, the head basketball coach at Greensburg Central Catholic.
At Monday’s girls game between Leechburg High School and Greensburg Central Catholic, coach Salih talked about how Bryant was his favorite player.
His team also wore some of Bryant’s signature shoes on the court.
“I have real-life memories of Kobe. That’s the cool thing. I got to watch him play as a junior in the state semifinals,” said coach Salih.
Coach Salih has followed Bryant since high school and has been inspired by his other roles in life as a father and community member.
“Anytime you have mentors and role models, elders around you that can help you no matter what background you come from as long as your heart is pure,” coach Salih told KDKA News.
Bryant was also about pouring himself into the world of girls and women’s basketball.
“It makes me feel like we actually matter. It makes me feel like I have a place in the sports world,” Greensburg Central Catholic basketball player Samantha Nemeth told KDKA News.
Coach Salih took a similar path.
After playing in high school and college, he’s coached girls for more than 20 years.
He said Bryant’s most inspiring legacy will be making girls believe anything is possible.
“And not just in the basketball world. He affected other athletes in their mindset and how they took on their sport,” said Gia Scala of the Greensburg Central Catholic girls basketball team.