Men’s Basketball: Chris Collins and Northwestern remember Kobe Bryant

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Editor

Coach Chris Collins honored Kobe Bryant after Northwestern’s game Sunday, remembering a basketball legend and Collins’ childhood friend.

Collins’ and Bryant’s fathers were teammates on the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1970s, and Collins had known Bryant since the “Black Mamba” was born in 1978. Collins also coached Bryant three separate times as an assistant on the United States’ Men’s Basketball National Team.

Bryant died alongside eight others Sunday in a helicopter crash, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Collins was emotional discussing Bryant after Sunday’s game.

“It was hard to rally to play a game, but I know the competitor he was and that he would want both teams to go out there and fight hard,” Collins said. “For all these kids on both teams, you’re talking about a guy who’s probably a hero to most all of them.”

Collins’ younger sister and Bryant are about a month apart in age, and Collins said he remembers their mothers being pregnant at the same time when Collins was 4 years old. Collins also remembered being in the family room at the 76ers arena with a group of children that included Bryant, WNBA legend Tamika Catchings and former Sacramento Kings point guard Mike Bibby.

Collins reconnected with Bryant in 2007 as an assistant on the U.S. national team. After the U.S. lost in the 2004 Olympics, Bryant helped lead the “Redeem Team” to a gold medal in 2008, and Collins played a part in that run.

“When we were in China, he’d get me out of bed at 2 in the morning and make me rebound for him for two hours,” Collins said. “He was a machine, he loved the game.”

Collins said Sunday that he addressed Bryant’s death with the team before the Wildcats tipped off against Ohio State.

Kobe and Gianna’s deaths sent shockwaves through the basketball community. Gianna was a rising star basketball player and the same age as Collins’ 13-year-old daughter.

“It puts it all in perspective,” Collins said. “You’re not just playing a basketball game. Every minute is precious.”

Bryant spent all 20 seasons of his NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers and scored 33,643 points. He will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Bryant will be remembered for the impact he left on the next generation of basketball players.

“He will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability,” Silver said in a statement. “He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @2021_charlie