BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Kobe Bryant's impact transcends both the sport of basketball and North America. Sunday's news shocked the Buffalo Sabres' locker room.
Head coach Ralph Krueger's family is in Switzerland; the news of the helicopter crash was still as shocking and as ubiquitous in Europe.
"It's front news everywhere, even in a place where basketball isn't as big, like Switzerland," Krueger said. "You can see how much basketball means in countries that people wouldn't believe that it's such a major sport."
Massachusetts native and Sabres captain Jack Eichel had a chance to witness Kobe firsthand in the Lakers-Celtics rivalry throughout his childhood. He always looked up to Bryant.
"Kobe was one of my favorite athletes," Eichel said. "I think the impact he had on athletes across the world, greater than just basketball. Someone like myself he impacted so much. He would never know that."
Bryant, nicknamed the Black Mamba, especially served as inspiration for Eichel when the latter was working back from a sprained ankle. He looked back at Bryant's achilles injury.
"You look at his career, and everything he's accomplished, it was towards the end of the career," Eichel said. "I just look at the way he rehabbed himself, the way that he worked, and the way that he did everything to get himself back to play again," "I thought it was motivational for somebody who's done so much to feel like he had more to prove."
Veteran forward Kyle Okposo shared a story about crossing paths with Kobe Bryant in Philadelphia.
"I saw him play live in Philadelphia once, and I saw him in the elevator. We were staying in the same hotel," Okposo said. "I didn't say anything to him, but he just had that presence about him. If he was in the same room, you knew."
"The world needs examples and the world needs people that an inspire people," Krueger said. "The world lost a big inspiration yesterday."