TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - One year ago today, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash.
The world lost an icon in what seemed like the blink of an eye, but for University of Arizona Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach Jason Terry, it all hit too close to home. The day before the accident, Terry and his family went to the Santa Monica Pier.
“I told my family, ‘Man, why is this an eerie feeling?’” said Terry. “I had seen him, seen his daughter play watched him coach, shook his hand, not thinking this would be the last time,”
Terry spent nearly 15 years competing against Bryant in the NBA. On Jan. 26, 2020 Jason and Kobe were set to compete again- this time as coaches.
Both men became fierce advocates for women’s basketball.
Bryant was a dad to four daughters, and Terry has five. They wanted to make sure their girls had the same opportunities as boys. So, Terry started his Lady Jets girls AAU program in 2008, and Kobe followed suit starting Team Mamba when he retired.
Though, their rivalry was never renewed.
“That morning... I have some photos of the hotel of the fog just lifting slowly down,” said Terry. “It just so happens that morning we were playing his and his daughters team.”
For Bryant and eight others, the fog was deadly. They never made it to the game.
“Everybody was just completely heartbroken,” said Jasionna Terry, Terry’s oldest daughter. “My mom was in tears on the phone… she was like, ‘Dad’s really quiet right now, just check on him.’”
“My dad could have taken a ride with him to the game that day,” said Jasionna Terry. “It hit way too close to home.”
This day was supposed to go differently. The former NBA champions were supposed to take a backseat as they passed the torch to their daughters. Instead, Terry was left in a gym trying to explain to 13 and 14-year-old girls what happened.
“It hit them hard. Once they saw their parents break down, the girls started to break down,” said Terry. “How do you even rationalize losing one of your childhood heroes right there before your eyes?”
And time may be able to heal wounds but, it cannot erase memories.
“It was tough, it still is,” said Terry. “I spend a lot of time reflecting, probably once or twice a day. How can you not?”
Bryant’s mamba mentality means something a little different to everyone. In Jason’s eyes- it wasn’t just Kobe’s unparalleled competitive drive- it was about family.
“That connectivity that he and I had together about the father-daughter relationship, his undeniable love for his family and for his daughters, I wholeheartedly feel like that was the impression he left on me,” said Terry.