PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s undeniable that Kobe Bryant is leaving a legacy behind in our area. Eyewitness News spoke with another local legend who had a very close relationship with the NBA star.
Bryant’s death, along with the death of his young daughter and several others on board that doomed helicopter, has struck a heartbreaking chord with people around the world.
One of those heartbroken is Philadelphia is Hall of Famer Sonny Hill, who helped teach the basketball legend the fundamentals of the game and life at a very young age.
Like those around the world, Hill is still trying to come to grips with Bryant’s tragic death.
“I was numb, disbelief,” Hill said.
But unlike many, the former basketball player and longtime 94WIP radio host, Bryant’s loss couldn’t be more personal.
“When Joe [Bryant] came back to Philadelphia after his career, he brought Kobe to me. He was about 14 years old,” Hill said.
When Bryant’s father ended his professional basketball career after playing in Italy for several years, he brought his son to the Sonny Hill Basketball League in Philadelphia — a place he himself had played and learned the game.
“He actually started off in my developmental league, which is for sixth, seventh and eighth graders,” Hill recalled. “I saw him evolve in each one of those programs and I was part of the evolving of him.”
Hill reflected on a secure teenage boy with an indefatigable drive to learn the game and be the best.
“We hear the stories about Kobe getting up at 5 a.m. and working on his craft all the way through, that was the genesis of it,” Hill said.
He also recollected the last time he saw Bryant, a couple of years ago after the basketball legend had written his first book — a touching exchange seared into his memory.
“Kobe would always give me a bear hug. So he gives me a big bear hug and he says, ‘I have something for you.’ He says, ‘I have a signed copy of my book,'” Hill recalled.
Another bear hug moment came on the basketball court during Bryant’s last game in Philadelphia against the Sixers.
There were so many moments from a young Kobe Bryant, to the iconic legend and philanthropist and so many more were stripped away in an instant.
“There was so much more that was in store for us as a society if this giant of a man had been able to live his life beyond 41 years,” Hill said.
Hill shared his philosophy with us, one that he says Bryant embodied so well. You use basketball to teach young folks, to mold them into better human beings, then teach them to reach back and try to bring others up.
Kobe Bryant was the epitome of that.