‘Everything Was Kobe’: Buddy Hield And His Special Relationship With The Mamba, Kobe Bryant

Countless prayers, memories and reactions from players in the NBA have flooded the many corners of social media in the hours and days after Kobe Bryant’s death.

Written in these messages are a variety of commonalities.

Immense sorry for his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and the seven other people who lost their lives in the tragic helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, California. Praise for Bryant’s incredible impact on the world of basketball, his immense reach and success off the court, and the younger generation of NBA talent he’s inspired.

That younger generation in today’s association wasted no time paying tribute to the Lakers legend. With every game on the Sunday slate starting with either a 24 second shot clock violation or an eight second backcourt violation — honoring the two numbers Bryant wore — two numbers that will forever carry a certain gravity brought on only by great loss.

In the days to follow, many players chose to wear one of the two numbers in warm ups, or change their number from 24 out of respect to Bryant. The Dallas Mavericks announced the organization was forever retiring 24.

Buddy Hield is one of those players that wears 24.

“Kobe was a myth for me growing up. I’m from a neighborhood in the Bahamas called Eight Mile Rock, about as far away from L.A. as you can get,” Hield penned in an article for The Players’ Tribune in 2016. “But as a kid I only wore number 8 or 24. I watched a lot of Lakers games on TV. Those were the Shaq-Kobe championship years.”

Hield went on to wear No. 24 during all four years of his Oklahoma Sooners career, and again immediately chose to wear the jersey number upon his entrance into the NBA in 2016.

Hield’s article in The Player Tribune goes on to explain how Bryant texted him out of the blue on his draft night, and the subsequent relationship that was built between the two through early morning workouts.

Buddy took to Instagram on Sunday to share his shock and sorrow at the loss of his childhood hero.

“As a kid growing up in the Bahamas, you made me believe that anything was possible,” Hield wrote.

The Sacramento Kings had a game the next night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Hield gave Kobe the best tribute he knew how. A career-high scoring performance.

He finished Monday’s game with 42 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in a match-up where he led the Kings back to win after trailing by 22 points with 5:43 remaining in the fourth. Hield caught particular fire in the fourth quarter, scoring 20 points on 6-6 shooting.

In doing so, he incredibly joined his hero Kobe Bryant as the only player in the last 20 seasons with a 20-point, 100 percent shooting performance in the 4th quarter of a game where his team overcame a 25-point deficit to win.

Following the Kings’ emotional 133-129 overtime victory, Hield gave a moving breakdown of what Bryant meant to him as a kid in the Bahamas.

“It was tough,” Hield told NBC Sports California’s Grant Napear and Doug Christie. “Just knowing where I came from and knowing what Kobe instilled in my life, everything was Kobe Bryant.”

“In the overtime, I didn’t want to score no more,” Hield said to the courtside reporters. “I had 42 points, I had five rebounds, three assits. Turn 42 around to 24. Five and three assists is eight points.”

In a game that’s so insistent on having an explanation for every statistic. It seems to me that Hield’s performance Monday night should simply be appreciated as a tribute to a legend.