Sitting down with Coach Camardella about the death of Kobe Bryant


Rick Lytle

On Jan. 26, the basketball world was rocked by the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Bryant was only 41 years old and just three years removed from his playing career. The five-time NBA champion is fourth on the all-time NBA points leaderboard. We sat down with Boys Basketball Head Coach John Camardella, who was a sophomore in high school when Kobe was drafted, to discuss the impact and legacy of Bryant.

What are some of your memories of Bryant throughout his career?
There were two really young players I remember watching when I was still in high school and early in college … we realized that Jordan was ending his career, so the second three-peat was watching Iverson come into his own and watching Kobe come into his own. I can remember Kobe’s first points were scored in Madison Square Garden, I mean it was that type of beginning. … Whenever the Bulls were playing the Lakers it was constantly: how is the young kid going to stack up against [Michael Jordan]? … When the Lakers drafted Kobe and then Shaq went to Los Angeles it created this hyper-focused team that was now going to be a formidable opponent [to the Bulls]. The thing that’s crazy is that Phil Jackson went from Chicago to Los Angeles, so the man that coached Jordan then just transferred over so Kobe just became the heir apparent after Mike retired.

How did you hear about the news of Bryant’s death?
I’ll never forget, it’s one of those moments you will never forget. So, I was sitting at Huntley Middle School at my daughter’s fifth grade feeder game with other parents and neighbors. There was like audible gasps. Everyone’s phone seemed to go off in the same couple minutes and all of us were just blown away. A lot of us were processing it differently, we just couldn’t believe that it happened. 

How do you think Bryant’s legacy will live on? 
I’m not a huge social media guy, I don’t have a personal twitter, I’ve never had a facebook. We have our twitter account for [Ultimate] Frisbee, [World] Religions and basketball and so sometimes I’ll hop on there and get a hot take from someone, but I’ve found myself scrolling through twitter a lot more these last few days than I ever have in my life because I just love that people have been posting these little tidbits and stories they’ve heard about Kobe. The thing that has amazed me the most is how many people were just so affected who weren’t in the basketball world, who weren’t hoopers or coaches or players or had nothing really to do with the game of basketball yet Kobe was part of their identity. … We always say the biggest secret about basketball is that it’s not about basketball. Basketball is a tool. It’s something I’ve always believed in and Kobe sort of embodied it. It’s that his work ethic made him a great basketball player. … The vast majority of people playing basketball on this planet will not go professional in basketball, but they will go professional in everything else. I learned how to approach my day thanks to the lessons learned in basketball. … There’s things that happen to you, and then it’s how you respond, how you get back to work and I think Kobe embodied that. I think that’s a big part of his legacy … he was always known as someone who was just going to work hard, and I think that’s always in our capacity and that’s what I think basketball teaches.