Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant inspired young basketball players all around the world — even in a city that has long loathed his team.
About 3,000 miles away from the scene of the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Bryant; his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people, the basketball community in Boston is reeling from the loss.
"A lot of my players modeled their game, they wanted to be just like Kobe Bryant," said Jelani Townsell, assistant dean of athletics at Roxbury Community College.
Over the years, the Lakers and the Boston Celtics have shared an often-intense rivalry — Bryant's Lakers went up against the Celts in two NBA Finals in three years, trading victories.
But the Celtics and their fans have joined the rest of the basketball world in shock and sadness, honoring the life of one of the game's all-time greats.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
Albert Hayle, head coach of the Roxbury Community College men's basketball team, had recently reminded his players of Bryant's qualities as a leader and an athlete.
"The night before this happened, I just sent them a group message about one of Kobe's motivational speeches about mental toughness and hard work," Hayle said.
Hayle says his players grew up idolizing Kobe, much like the generation before them revered Michael Jordan.
"Michael Jordan did it, but it wasn't documented to me as well as Kobe was documenting his success, to really educate and show others," said Hayle.
"Probably one of the best players to ever play basketball," said sophomore shooting guard Melvin Worley. "It's just heartbreaking."
Worley says he didn't believe the news at first — he couldn't imagine that someone so talented, who had just really begun his second successful act in life, was gone.
"He was an inspiration in practice. He was probably the first guy there, last guy to leave, always gave it 100% effort," Worley said.
"The impact that he had on absolutely everybody and everyone around, just the impact on basketball and just globally, you don't appreciate anything until moments like this of tragedy," Townsell said.
None of the people who were on the helicopter survived.
Former Cape Cod Baseball League coach John Altobelli was also on board, along with his wife, Keri, and his daughter, Alyssa. Also on board were Payton Chester, who played basketball with Gianna Bryant; Chester's mother, Sarah; elementary school basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.