SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — One day after his death, Kobe Bryant‘s iconic picture is posted outside of the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
Those that knew him are speaking to his legacy on and off the court.
“He really was, as special as a player as he was, he was a fierce competitor, he was even greater as a person,” said Ruthie Bolton.
Bolton played in the WNBA for the Sacramento Monarchs. She’s also a former summer Olympian and now coaches high school basketball in Vacaville. She met Bryant in Italy, where she was playing overseas. Bolton shared with CBS13 the last picture she took with Bryant. It’s a selfie taken at the WNBA All-star game in August.
“I didn’t know that would be my last time seeing him,” said Bolton.
On Sunday, Bolton was leaving church when she heard about Bryant’s tragic death. Like many, she didn’t want to believe what she was hearing.
“I said, ‘Please tell me this is not true, I’m numb, please tell me this is a dream,'” Bolton said.
Bolton says Bryant will be remembered as a champion for women’s basketball. It’s something that will be continued on through those that knew Bryant and his passion for the game.
“He left a legacy, and he will never be forgotten,” said Bolton.
The reality of the tragic loss hit hard for Youth Basketball Academy Coach Chris Collins.
“If anyone told me that would be one of the last times I’d see this man, I never would’ve known that,” said Collins.
Collins realized a video he filmed of Kobe Bryant on Saturday at the Mamba Academy facility, would be some of the last footage of the iconic basketball star. Collins took his team of 7th-grade boys to compete in the championship game at the Academy but never thought he’d meet the legend himself.
“We’re kinda standing looking at each other, and he says to me, “I heard you coaching,” said Collins about his encounter with Bryant. It was a 15-second meeting that would change his life forever.
“He said, ‘I love the things you’re saying.’ I was in shock and said, ‘Well you’re really good at basketball, so I appreciate that,'” he said.
One day later, Collins and his team got word of Bryant’s death.
“Kobe left a mark in this world, and that will transcend time. Kobe lived, and he made the most of his years,” he said.
Bobby Jackson, a former player and current Sacramento Kings Assistant Coach spoke with CBS13, ahead of the game in Minnesota. He says he and Kobe grew up on the court. For the Kings, this loss is hard on the entire team.
“I always admired him as a competitor, the MVP and champion that he always was, and you always want to learn from somebody like that and see what drives them,” Jackson said.