Fresno basketball team was at Kobe's facility when tragedy struck

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As brilliant as he was a player, Kobe Bryant was writing his next chapter as a father.

He was visible at his daughter's AAU games and his helicopter was actually en route to play the Lady Heat, a basketball team from Fresno.

"We were actually set to play the Mamba Team at 2 p.m.," says Lady Heat Head Coach Shatari Sykes.

Instead, coach Sykes and her players were at Kobe's facility when news of his death broke. Players took a knee and held a moment of silence before heading home.

"I don't think the tournament would've been able to continue," Sykes said. "The players were taking it pretty hard."

It was just on Saturday that another youth team from Fresno had taken a picture with Kobe, something the Laker legend had come to embrace.

Bryant made several trips to Fresno. Back in 1996, his first points as a professional were scored at a game at Selland Arena.

"I'm fitting in well," Bryant said post-game in 1996. "I'm able to compete with these guys on a daily basis."

Eight years later, he and the Lakers made a return trip to the Save Mart Center.

He wasn't in the crowd, but camped outside of his hotel back in 1996 was a young Quincy Pondexter.

"I always tell people Kobe was impossible to stop, no matter what you did or what scouting report," Pondexter said. "It all went out the window because it felt like he had a cheat code on everything."

The former San Joaquin Memorial standout played against the five-time NBA champion several times during his NBA career.

"You knew that you had to bring your A-game just to be on the same floor as him," Pondexter said.

He spent all 20 seasons in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers. The team is off until Tuesday when they'll play the Clippers.

Former Bulldog Paul George will be at Staples Center for what is sure to be an emotional night in Los Angeles.
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