Eastern’s men’s basketball juniors George Dixon and Mack Smith opened up on their thoughts, inspiration and what is to come after Kobe Bryant’s death Jan. 26.
Both players did not believe the initial news. Both have different moments with them, including a tweet from Smith who could not believe the news and listened to a song by Lil Wayne about Bryant.
Smith was doing homework in his room and took a break and found out via social media. He was hurt by the news and described Bryant as his first basketball idol.
“I used to wear a lot of his shoes and watch a lot of his highlights,” Smith said. “He was the first basketball player to where, when I first play a video game I’m going straight to the Lakers and playing with Kobe.”
Smith listened to the Lil Wayne song before every time he played basketball or did a workout. Smith stated that the song was the truth, and Lil Wayne stated facts about Bryant and that is why he listened to it.
Smith attributes his playing style of never giving up, his work ethic, always going the extra mile to Bryant. When asked about his favorite moment of Bryant, Smith admitted it was after Bryant tore his Achilles, and the two air balls Bryant shot when he was 18 against the Utah Jazz in the playoffs, and the grit Bryant had after both situations.
“I knew right then and there I wanted to be in that spot,” Smith said. “I want to not be afraid to take shots and not be afraid to step up to the challenge. That’s what made me want to go further in basketball.”
Dixon was sitting in his apartment when he found out and received a text from his sister of the news. Dixon checked multiple sources and was heartbroken by the news.
Dixon’s favorite memories of Bryant came when he was wearing the number eight. Dixon admitted to implementing Bryant’s footwork and post moves into his game. If you have watched Dixon play his ability to get to the lane and post up has made him one of the leading scorers for the Panthers.
“I loved to watch him when I was younger and my brother would rewind old clips from him playing,” Dixon said. “Just watching him was the best moments I could ever imagine.”
Both players described the Mamba Mentality following into their future whether individual or on the court. Especially Smith, who stated “Mamba Mentality forever.”
“You always have to go out there with the killer instinct,” Smith said. “When you say Mamba everyone knows what that means and it’s that dog in you. You have to have that mentality every time in practice, working out, and especially in the games.”
Dixon wants to take Bryant’s mentality, passion, confidence and hard work into everything.
“In life you gotta have that grit and determination,” Dixon said. “I just want to spread that out to other people and let them know this man was an idol to a lot of people. The effect he had on people grows inside of you and you want to be the best you because of him.”
Blake Faith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]