Sunday was for honoring legends. As the 1990 national champions were recognized pregame to a roaring Maples Pavilion crowd, I found out that Kobe Bryant had passed away.
Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer has compiled 1,085 career wins, with the most recent coming Sunday. The only coach with more is the late, great Pat Summitt.
“We’re very happy for our team success, but we’re very saddened by the news about Kobe Bryant, and that really has put a damper on our celebration with our 1990 team,” VanDerveer said. “I think it just reinforces to our team just how much we love each other, how much we care about each other, and just kind of the big picture — it’s a lot more important sometimes than a basketball game.”
Since retiring from the NBA, Bryant had been a massive proponent of women’s sports, especially the WNBA. He was just as likely to be on the sidelines of a Los Angeles Sparks game, often with one of his four daughters, the youngest of whom was born just last June, as at a Lakers game, where he spent his entire 20-year career. He died on his way to a basketball game with his daughter, Gianna. She was 13.
Before the 2017 Final Four, Bryant partnered with the Players’ Tribune do give VanDerveer’s squad some advice.
Before last year’s game at UCLA, Bryant called VanDerveer with some advice.
“Obviously, our team is very distraught,” said senior forward Nadia Fingall. “I think growing up we were all looking to Kobe and we got the news at the end of the game, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room.”
I normally love coming to Maples, but something did not seem right on Sunday. Bryant was as much basketball as he was throwing a balled up piece of paper in the trash. Watching basketball in a world without Kobe is just weird.
I was so impressed when I read an article a week ago about a reporter who tracked down Bryant at a charity soccer event to ask about LeBron James potentially passing him on the all-time scoring list. Bryant was, of course, excited about the prospect, but could only laugh when the reporter asked if he would be at the game, which looked like it would be in his hometown Philadelphia. “I got four kids,” he said.
Now, I cannot even imagine to what ends I would go to talk to Bryant.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.