On a day where the scoreboard indicated that Ohio State won and Northwestern lost, the postgame scene in Welsh-Ryan Arena proved that sometimes, the winners and losers of a basketball game simply don’t matter.
The death of Kobe Bryant shook the basketball world yesterday. There isn’t a single soul associated with the sport that didn’t have an attachment of some sort to the hooping legend, and his impact on generations of all ages was evident.
A teary-eyed Chris Collins was the first Northwestern figure to head to the microphone, and he shared his experiences, of which there were many, in a press conference that didn’t feature much discussion about the Xs and Os of his squad’s loss.
“It was tough to go out there and play a game today,” Collins said, “but knowing the competitor [Kobe] was, he would have wanted both teams to go out there and fight hard.”
The NU coach also revealed that he has a long history with the immortal basketball player, citing a number of moments the duo shared.
“I have a lot of history with Kobe,” Collins shared. “Our dads were teammates in Philadelphia, so I’ve known him since he was born. I coached him with the national team on three different teams.”
To Collins, what stuck out about spending time with Kobe wasn’t just his natural gift with regards to the sport, but his personality and work ethic.
“Talking about kids and family, my daughter sent me a picture from the 2008 Olympics, it’s sad,” Collins said. “We’d be out in China and he’d get me out of bed at two o’clock in the morning to rebound for him.”
For NU players that are just now making their mark on the game, it was a role model and idol that passed away on Sunday. True freshman point guard Boo Buie weighed in on the impact Bryant had on him.
“When I heard the news, it just broke my heart, Buie said, “I always thought he was going to be a basketball legend, he’s a basketball god now.”
It seemed that every child fan growing up in the 2000s emulated that basketball god in their everyday life, shouting Kobe’s name when shooting an off-balance piece of paper into the recycle, and Buie said as much.
“I remember shooting on my room on a nerf hoop, fading away and yelling his name,” he said. “He was my idol growing up, I used to wear his jersey, so it was super sad.”
And while a legend’s impact on a game may sometimes be confined to their work on the court or field, what stuck out to Miller Kopp was Kobe’s work off the court.
“He’s done so many things outside of the game,” Kopp said. “He’s done so much in the community to help the basketball world and it’s really unbelievable.”
After tragedies like these, it genuinely feels like wins and losses couldn’t be further from importance.
I could have written a postgame story about the Northwestern defense’s inability to defend the perimeter, or the offense’s inability to generate looks for anyone not named Kopp as the Wildcats sputtered to their fourth-straight loss.
But after listening to each individual from both teams come through the media room in Welsh-Ryan and display the raw emotion that only legends of sport can draw from individuals, it would have felt odd. It would have felt wrong.
People often ask me why I care so much about sports. Sunday’s postgame presser was a prime example of why. The impact that your heroes can impart on you is nothing short of life-changing, and that was present for Evanston to see.