FRESNO, California (KGPE) – The Fresno EBO basketball team, a traveling team full of 10-year-old boys, posed for a photo with Kobe Bryant on Saturday at the Mamba Basketball Academy.
Those smiles turned to tears hours later as the team found out their idol died in a helicopter crash.
“To have that interaction and then him gone that next day,” said one of the boy’s father Demetrius Porter. “It just crushed the kid’s heart.”
The traveling team had a once in a lifetime encounter with the NBA royalty.
“Daddy, daddy,” said Porter as he recalled what his son called out. ” Kobe is over there, let’s go take a picture.”
Moments later, Kobe embraced the team as they all posed for the camera.
“I was like let’s go, we got a picture with Kobe,” said EBO player Andy Miller. “I was like texting my friends, ‘I just got a picture with Kobe Bryant’ and they were like ‘no way.”
At the same time, Saiya Sidhu, who plays for the Fresno Lady Heat, was getting ready to suit up against Kobe’s daughter.
“We were so excited and I was like I am definitely gonna guard Gigi,” said Sidhu.
The match-up was extremely special for Sidhu, who met Kobe back in 2015 during his Mamba Skills Camp.
“He is right there,” said Sidhu. “It is just crazy. I mean shoulder to shoulder. I was just blown away.”
The mood in the room shifted on Sunday morning when news broke that Kobe, his daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter crash.
“The gym just when quiet and everyone was crying. It was a really tough moment,” said Sidhu.
Side by side, competitors came together to kneel at center court in his honor. They remembered his legacy and held their loved ones a little tighter.
“It was probably the most powerful moment there because it went from pain to crying to like everyone just understanding how valuable life is.”