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Aztecs players influenced by Kobe Bryant, their 'generational star'

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 21:32:47-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The San Diego State Men's Basketball team is mourning the death of Kobe Bryant, considered a hero to many players on the team. “We all grew up looking up to Kobe," said junior Matt Mitchell. "I feel like all basketball players of this generation grew up wanting to be Kobe, play like Kobe, taking stuff from him.”

The team learned of Bryant's death in a helicopter crash Sunday morning during the team's shootaround, just an hour before its game against UNLV in Las Vegas. Coach Brian Dutcher said some players had tears in their eyes, so he adjusted his pre-game message to get his team focused on the game. "You have your speech leading into the game that you want to talk about and get the team ready to play and then something like that happens and they’re looking to you."

The team came together to win a school record 21st consecutive game, remaining the only undefeated team in Division One, and holding its #4 ranking in the polls. After the game, the emotional dam burst. "We locked arms and we shared a moment of silence," Dutcher said, "because Kobe was their generational player. He was someone they all looked up to who impacted all of their lives.”