Image: Nottingham Wildcats club captains Siobhan Prior and Kenrick Liburd

Two leading figures in Nottingham women’s basketball have praised the late Kobe Bryant for all his work in championing the sport.

The former Los Angeles Lakers player died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi) was also in the aircraft, which officials confirm had no survivors.

Siobhan Prior, a former England international and a club captain at Nottingham Wildcats Basketball Club, said that Kobe had worked hard to make sure that women’s basketball is seen as equal to the men’s game.

“Kobe Bryant was an inspiration for the basketball community”
Siobhan Prior, Nottingham Wildcats Basketball Club

“He championed women’s basketball more than any other former NBA player I can think of. Mainly because he had four daughters. He wanted to show his daughter Gianna that she could be as good as she wanted to be.

“His respect for women as basketball players was really important. He didn’t compare men and women – he just talked about them all as athletes.”

Siobhan had been at the Basketball League Cup Final in Birmingham when she heard the news.

Video: Siobhan Prior pays tribute to Kobe Bryant 

“At the beginning we thought it was a joke. But as [more media organisations] started to report it, that’s when it really started to sink in.

“He was so many different things but when he walked onto the court, he was a competitor. He was a perfectionist in everything he did – he even won an Oscar. He was an inspiration for the basketball community.”

Kobe Bryant Factfile

  • Played basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers for his entire 20 year career, before retiring in 2016
  • Scored the second highest number of points in NBA history – 81 during a game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006
  • A father to four daughters – Gianna, Natalia, Capri and Bianka
  • Won an Oscar for his short animated film Dear Basketball in 2018

Kenrick Liburd, the head coach at the club, described Kobe as a ‘warrior’ and a ‘very very determined human being”.

“Not everybody loved Kobe but you have to respect him as a player and his impact on the game of basketball. He personifies toughness.”

When asked about how the National Basketball Association will move on from Kobe’s death, Mr Liburd thinks that they will honour him in future games.

“I think when situations like this happen, it shows people that maybe their problems aren’t as big as they seem. The NBA is no different. I think they will do something fitting to try and honour Kobe and what he has done for the sport.”