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'The ultimate competitor:' Coach Wojo, former NBA players remember Kobe Bryant

Posted at 7:00 PM, Jan 27, 2020

MILWAUKEE — Legendary basketball player, Kobe Bryant inspired people around the world, including right here in Milwaukee. Those who got the chance to work with him or play him are sharing their memories.

Marquette Men’s Basketball Coach Steve Wojciechowski worked with Bryant during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in Beijing and London.

He remembers the iconic athlete as a leader who always gave it his all.

“He kind of set the tone in terms of the seriousness with which everyone was going to approach the Olympics,” Wojciechowski said. “He had an intolerance for mediocrity or people not giving their best.”

With that, came extra hours on the court, in the gym and studying the game.

“The unrequired work is what makes people great and he took that to the ultimate level,” Wojciechowski said.

Coach Wojo learned a lot from Bryant as did former NBA player Tony Smith of ESPN Milwaukee.

“Kobe got to the Lakers a year after I left the Lakers, so I like to say that I made room for him, I cleared a roster spot for him so he could come there,” Smith said.

While they didn’t get to play on the same team, Smith got the chance to compete against a young Bryant, just starting his career.

“He was still good. You could see that he has flashes and that he was going to be something special, which he turned out to be,” Smith said.

Later on, as a commentator for FOX, he watched Bryant develop into a player who he said had no weaknesses.

“Kobe was the ultimate competitor. I mean he wants to you know go at you and compete,” Smith said. “When he was in the game and he was trying to rise on top nothing was going to get in his way.”

Smith said it was Bryant’s work ethic that stood out both on and off the court.

“He was the talented guy that actually worked like he had no talent and I think that’s what made him special,” Smith said.

24 hours after Bryant’s death, Smith was back hosting his ESPN Milwaukee show taking calls from fans.

“He seemed so invincible and it just doesn’t feel like this is the way that he was going to go out,” a fan named Chris said.

Bryant’s former Lakers teammate Caron Butler also shared memories on CNN about the man he considered a mentor.

“He was always that big brother that I could reach out to and that’s more than any money, you can’t put a value on that,” Butler said. “He told me no limits. Never put a ceiling on what you’re capable of accomplishing and doing in life, and I took that to heart.”

It’s Bryant’s passion for life and the game that inspired fans around the world and will continue to keep his legacy alive.

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