KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee mens basketball team is planning to honor the late Kobe Bryant on Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols will wear purple shoe laces against Texas A&M, paying tribute to one of the best basketball players of all-time and an icon that Tennessee’s current players grew up watching.
PHOTOS: Kobe Bryant through the years
“I was at my brother in-law’s funeral when I heard the news”, Rick Barnes said about Bryant’s passing on Monday. “Our assistants were with our guys. When they told them a bunch of our guys started crying…which shows the impact a guy like Kobe Bryant can have. Guys do grow up looking at and watching every move these players make. Kobe is certainly one of the greatest players ever, but it’s the way he did things. He did everything that a coach would want.”
Barnes said he never met Bryant but did get to see him play when the 5-time NBA champion was in high school.
“The first time I ever saw him I was at Farleigh Dickenson University up in New Jersey during the summer watching a high school AAU event. There were four courts spread out up there and one of my assistants Frank Haith told me to watch a certain court. When there was a break on that court, I looked down at the other end and I see a guy putting on a show and I went down and watched that game. Frank came back and asked if I had watched that game I told him, ‘No, I’m watching this kid. If you get me that kid we’ll win the National Championship.’
“He was without question the best high school player I’ve ever watched since I’ve been in coaching. Everything he did back then he just took to a different level. If you go back and look at the way he went about things it’s incredible. Everybody knows about his training and everything. But, getting to coach a guy like Kevin Durant and Kevin telling me he tried to spend time with him, because he wanted to know everything that he was doing. I think guys like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson did all of that for (Bryant) and I think he’s handed it down to LeBron James. If you look at it, Kobe grew up loving Michael Jordan, then here’s LeBron loving Kobe and Kevin Durant right behind them loving LeBron.
Tennessee (12-7, 4-2 SEC) is riding a 3-game win streak against Texas A&M. The Vols and Aggies get started at 6:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network.