HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - There’s been an outpouring of love and well-wishes around the world geared toward Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven other lives lost to Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
It seems like everybody has a Kobe Bryant story. This doesn’t exclude the state of Mississippi where a number of local players have enjoyed long NBA careers.
Clarence Weatherspoon was drafted out of Southern Miss in 1992 to Bryant’s hometown Philadelphia 76ers. The USM assistant coach remembers a young “Black Mamba” during his days at Lower Merion High School.
“Kobe used to come to the gym and play pickup and work out with us,” Weatherspoon said. “That was a moment that you knew that he had confidence and that factor that he was driven. He was driven to become one of the greatest of all time.”
Mississippi Valley State men’s basketball coach Lindsey Hunter played 17 years in the NBA, drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1993 out of Jackson State.
He played alongside Bryant on the Lakers 2001 championship team but also recalls the many times they were opponents.
“My habits were always to get to the games super early,” Hunter said. “And I was walking in at the United Center and I remember the lights being really, really dim because nobody was there yet. And I heard a ball bouncing about two-and-a-half, three hours before anybody got there. I walked out and I saw Kobe in a full sweat. I was like, ‘What’re you doing?’ He would call me his vet. He was like, ‘What’s up, that’s my vet right there.’ I was like, wow. I walked back to the locker room and I told [Chicago Bulls assistant coach] Pete Myers, ‘Dude, we’re in for a long night.’”