ST. GEORGE — When it comes to the death of important people, from family loved ones to celebrity figures, the late author Terry Pratchett said, “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”
For NBA superstar Kobe Bryant – who died Sunday in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others – those ripples have extended like a last-second, game-winning shot to St. George.
On Thursday evening, atop the Human Performance Center at Dixie State University, a group of mostly Dixie Students alongside some members of the community held a memorial for the late basketball player who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
As the sun set behind the basketball hoops, the approximately 50 people who attended the ceremony organized by the university’s Black Student Union reminisced about what Bryant meant to them and how his sudden loss had affected them.
While some may question the amount of attention being given to the death of a basketball player, for student Ariiyane Ringgold, who came to the memorial in her National Guard uniform, Bryant transcended just a sports figure.
“Just like a lot of the other inspirational women and men who came before him, like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, he was a very inspirational man. He wasn’t just the average man who went to work every day and played on TV,” Ringgold said. “He was a very powerful man off the court as well as on it. And I think that alone affects so many volumes about the kind of man he was.”
The memorial opened with 24 seconds of silence to mark the 24 seconds of an NBA shot clock and closed with the release of purple and gold balloons into the Southern Utah sky. It also included audio from the animated “Dear Basketball” short, which won Bryant an Academy Award as the producer and narrator.
“I think it’s just the way he affected people,” Ringgold said. “He was just such an influential and inspirational man that no matter where he went or who he met, people loved him.”
Dixie State Black Student Union c0-president Alexis McClain said the event came about quickly after the sudden loss of Bryant. The Black Student Union changed what was their regular weekly meeting into a memorial for Bryant, as she said not only was Bryant a prominent figure in the black community but also one whose work ethic and drive resonated in Southern Utah and the world. The memorial would provide a chance for those who felt the pain of his loss to be together.
“It was very gratifying, and it was just heartwarming to see how many people actually did come out today,” McClain, a senior at Dixie State, said. “We’re tying in different cultures from Nevada. Arizona, California. It’s not just out of Utah area.”
Even those who may have not cheered for Bryant during his basketball career felt reason to acknowledge his accomplishments at the memorial. Tanner Lundgreen grew up near Salt Lake City as a fan of the Utah Jazz
“I never had the most love for Kobe as a rival. But as a person, Kobe was someone that you always respected,” Lundgreen said. “Kobe Bryant’s kind of invincible. You know, you’re not guaranteed tomorrow and it’s like that but on a more magnified level.”
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