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Las Vegas girls basketball team attending California tournament when helicopter crashed

Coach talks about impact of crash on team
Posted at 6:23 PM, Jan 27, 2020

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Kobe Bryant’s legacy will live on not only in his athleticism, but his dedication to youth sports. Bryant was on the way to a tournament with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna when their helicopter crashed and they, along with two other young teens, their family members and the pilot were all killed.

Erin Thorn coaches her team, Erin Thorn’s Elite Basketball for Girls, in Las Vegas and says Gianna and the other 2 girls were all going to play in the California tournament. Thorn’s team was already there and in the middle of a game when the news hit.

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“At that point the game kind of stopped. The other coach walked over and said 'Hey we’re going to stop the game, let’s just line up and shake hands. This doesn’t matter right now, it doesn’t,' ” said Thorn.

She then had to tell her team that Kobe and the girls, who are peers, had been killed. A parent was taking a video of the game and in the video, you can see the moment when the ref stops the game and a group starts to form a huddle, with players kneeling and praying for everyone on board.

“My girls fell apart and it’s all you can do to hug them and let them know it’ll be okay and basketball doesn’t matter right now, it’s more important you hug your parents and tell them you love them and thank them for everything they do for you,” said Thorn.

The impact has spread past that team. Ramon Gutierrez’s daughter Selina Gutierrez is on the varsity basketball team at Bishop Gorman High School. He has a video of Selina playing in a basketball game against Gianna in 2019.

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In that video, you can see Kobe sitting on the bench, helping coach his daughters team. He said he’s going to cherish that video and is now reminded about how important it is to be a supportive father. He remembered a time when his daughter thanked him for coming to games.

“[She said] ’Dad the best time is when you’re sitting front court with me watching me play,’ and it brought a tear to my eye,” said Gutierrez.

Selina said Kobe has been a huge impact on her love of basketball and it was a special experience to not only play against Gianna, but meet Kobe after the game.

"Honestly it was crazy, it was like unbelievable. I was in awe the whole time just to have him come up and talk to me," said Selina.