“Honestly, I cried.”
Julian Sensley’s reaction to NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s passing was shared by many.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He, along with his 13 year old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people were killed on Sunday morning in a helicopter crash.
“I have a 13 year old son,” said Sensley, a former University of Hawaii men’s basketball player. “I couldn’t even imagine, as a parent losing your child is single-handedly the worst thing on earth. To the wife of Kobe Bryant, Vanessa, and to everyone else, our hearts break for that family.”
Sensley is a former Kalaheo basketball player who grew up in Kailua. He had an 11 year professional basketball career, including multiple preseason stints in the NBA, where he played against Bryant.
“I got to play against him a few times,” said Sensley. “A preseason game once. My short, short stint with the Rockets. And pick-up games at the UCLA, in my first couple of years after UH. I got to play against him. He was a real, kind of humble guy. he had an aura about him. He had the mambo mentality and that killer in him. You kinda still have that even when you’re playing against him in a real game. He still kinda have an approachable thing about him if you were to ask him about basketball related stuff. He had no problems giving tips, especially to the younger guys.”
One of the front-facing basketball figures in Hawaii today is Eran Ganot, the head coach of the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team. Ganot’s favorite team is a popular one: the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant Lakers.
“I don’t know if you have a better dynamic duo, going to four finals appearances in five years,” said Ganot.
Ganot’s two stints as a coach at UH allowed him to witness Kobe and the Lakers when they held training camp in Hawaii over the years. Ganot’s first year as the ‘Bows head coach was Bryant’s last preseason in 2015.
“Hearing the Kobe chants — seeing him in two different stages of his life and getting the most out of his body late in his career… Put out a show for the fan-base, sold out the Stan. I also remember the first time I saw him in training camp, I was a little younger — guys would be in their training camp and do their practices and head back. But he’d be there later and he’d come early, be in the wait room and he’d share wisdom with the other guys.”
Kobe Bryant was 41 years old.