NBA icon Kobe Bryant’s connections to Tampa Bay

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Basketball fans around the world and here in Tampa Bay continue to remember and honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant after his untimely death on Sunday.

NTSB investigators are trying to figure what caused the helicopter to crash in the hills outside of Los Angeles. The crash killed Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.

Very early on in his career, Kobe Bryant trained in Bradenton at the IMG Academy.

Anthony Parker the General Manager of the Lakeland Magic, the Orlando Magic’s NBA G League development team played against Bryant during his nine seasons in the NBA.

“There’s nothing more scary as than a defender seeing Kobe Bryant coming at you down the court,” Parker said.

Paker told 8 On Your Side he remembers late in his career guarding the legendary Laker.

“He came up to me was like, hey man thanks for battling me, I respect that, thanks for stepping up,” Parker said. “And so its all those little stories, each player he’s played against shared with him, that’s what Kobe was. Just respected the fight, the mentality, your approach and that’s what I think he’s passing on to the next generation.”

Parker said the loss of Bryant’s daughter just adds another level of sadness to this tragedy.

“He had a daughter that fell in love with the game,” Parker said. “I have a son that’s in love with the game. What mother or father around the country can’t identify with when you sit there and you see him and Gianna court side explaining to her some aspect of the game and she’s nodding in approval.”

Parker said Bryant’s support for women’s basketball will be a large part of his legacy.

“My sister Candace Parker has certainly benefited from not only his mentorship, but showing up to games, giving credibility to the women players,” Parker said.

Watch 8 On Your Side’s full interview with Anthony Parker about Kobe Bryant’s career and legacy.

Parker was at his son’s basketball game Sunday when his sister, a WNBA superstar, reached out trying to make sense of Bryant’s untimely death.

ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who lives in the bay area, has shared several tweets reflecting on Bryant’s legacy since learning of his passing.

Former University of South Florida men’s basketball standout Chucky Atkins played with Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2004-5 season.

The USF women’s basketball account shared this tweet on Bryant and one of the program’s greats, Courtney Williams, who reached last season’s WNBA Finals as a member of the Connecticut Sun.

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