28 January 2020

As condolences flooded in from around the world following the tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash, players from London Lions basketball team paid their own tributes to their hero on TV news on Monday.

TV crews from Sky TV, Channel 5 and ITV London descended on the University of East London's SportsDock to record the sadness and loss felt by all the players and by team coach and Lions chief executive Vincent Macaulay at Kobe Bryant's untimely death.

Mr Macaulay had himself met Kobe during the 2012 London Olympics and voiced his shock and deep sorrow at losing such a talented and charismatic player.

The news came just weeks after the capital's trophy-winning professional basketball team strengthened its strategic partnership with the University of East London in recent weeks, as part of the University's goal to become London's leading global sports university.

Now the Lions, who were winners of the British Basketball League (BBL) Championship in the 2018/19 season, and the British All-Stars Championship in October, have lost a leading light in the sport.

Mr Macaulay told reporters on Sky, Channel 5 and ITV London, how shocked and saddened he had been on hearing the news.

This is a very sad day for basketball, and Kobe is a great loss, not just to the game, but to the world of sport. Kobe was one of the greatest players of all time. He loved the game, but he also wanted to share it with everyone.

"The University of East London was the home base for the basketball team in the London Olympics and Kobe was among the key players who played here at the time. I was lucky to meet him twice briefly and have watched his career over the years. He was a true legend, and inspiration to everyone in the world of sport and a shining light,"

Vincent Macaulay, team coach and London Lions chief executive, said.

University of East London alumnus Joe Ikhinmwin, Lions Captain, said, "Kobe was a real-life hero. His energy on the court was 100 per cent. He was a great basketball player and a great individual. He inspired me in my game, and it is really sad to lose him."

Lions player Andre Lockhart, guard and coach of the Lions Academy team, who was lucky to meet Kobe in North Carolina where he was studying for a degree a few years ago, said Kobe was "just magical, one of those superheroes you idolise.  He was my Batman and Superman!"

Matt Tansley, Director of Sport at The University of East London, said, "First and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends.  As a University we were fortunate to have hosted one of the greatest players who ever played the game of basketball. It's so sad, but hopefully we can all continue to take inspiration from Kobe’s amazing achievements on and off the court and continue to support the sport he loved."

The University and the London Lions have been working together to bring sport and education together and have been collaborating to give players access to educational opportunities and students the ability to take up internships and work experience. The London Lions train and play some home games at SportsDock, with the University's teams able to call on the coaching support of Lions professionals.

The partnership between the University and the London Lions was officially launched in December and will extend across the rest of the BBL season in 2020. As this is an Olympic year, the partnership creates a tangible legacy link to the London 2012 Olympics, when the all-star US basketball squad trained at the University’s SportsDock complex.

The Lions have already secured high-profile Great Britain international and Sky Sports pundit Ovie Soko, best known as a star of the fifth series of ITV’s 'Love Island' reality television show, where he placed third. The London-born forward is a marquee signing with a strong pedigree as an international player.

Related topics