Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were going to her basketball game when their helicopter crashed one year ago today. The news was a gut punch for young athletes and their coaches.
Natalie Gutierrez is a coach for LA Clippers Youth Basketball, plus women’s basketball at LA Valley College. She says what helped her get through the day was one of her young players.
“One of my girls sent me a text and she said, ‘Coach, I'm excited that we have this game, you know, I'm ready to play with the Mamba mentality.’ And when I read that I was like, ‘Wow, I can't be sad.’ I have to be there for these girls, they inspire me, I inspire them, and we actually proceeded to win the championship that day."
Over the past pandemic year, Gutierrez, or Coach Nat as everyone calls her, has been running drills over Zoom.
“It's about adapting and coping. Simply getting them to communicate and express themselves amongst not only to me, but amongst their friends. [That is what] really helps create a safe environment, regardless of it being through a box.”
Gutierrez has spent time reflecting on why Bryant is so important to her, as a native Angeleno, and to her community. “It was almost as if he was a father figure to all of us. He was that leader. He was ... someone that we looked up to.
And for me, I looked up to, obviously, his game. And a lot of his game, I put into my own personal game [as a player]. But throughout the years, it [has gone] beyond the court. So his inspiration and his dedication to the women's game, and [motivation] to help his girls develop and become the best versions of themselves, that’s just one that has really stuck with me.”