Trenton McLaughlin grew up idolizing former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
He took any chance he could to wear No. 24, Bryant’s jersey number when he retired in 2016, on every basketball team he played on growing up. That includes his time at Basha High School.
“I’ve worn 24 ever since I was 7, if I got to choose my jersey number,” McLaughlin said in a text. “Kobe was the reason I got into basketball. He was my role model and my inspiration for basketball. He influenced so many people and for what he did post-retirement is almost as inspiring as what he did on the court.
“From being a spokesperson for women’s basketball and invested and building up small companies. He was such a role model for everyone.”
Like millions all over the world, McLaughlin was left speechless when news broke Sunday morning of a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles that claimed the life of the five-time NBA champion. As more details emerged, it was revealed Bryant was with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in the crash.
There were no survivors.
“I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t believe it and still don’t believe it right now,” McLaughlin said. “I cried and felt sick to my stomach. I was so speechless and confused. Seeing my role model pass away just 4 years after he walked away from the game, and having his daughter pass away as well, it was just too much to take in.”
Basha’s first game since Bryant’s tragic death came just two days after the future NBA Hall of Famer perished. The Bears faced Perry in a rivalry dubbed the “Battle for Val Vista,” the street which both schools are near just over four miles apart.
It was a low scoring affair between the two teams, as they were tied at 48 with just 4 seconds remaining in regulation.
Basha’s student section chanted “Kobe” while one student held up Bryant’s Lakers jersey. Senior guard CJ Noder inbounded the ball to junior guard Thomas Hastings, who brought it across the center court line. Hastings then found McLaughlin, who pulled up near the corner just beyond the three-point line as the buzzer sounded.
In true Kobe Bryant fashion, the ball banked in to give Basha the win.
“When I took the shot I realized if the shot was going to go in it had to be a bank,” McLaughlin said. “When it went in it was just a surreal moment. I was swarmed by the incredible student section we had and all my teammates.
“Just such an unforgettable moment.”
The video of the shot, posted on Twitter by Basha student Brayden Nako, was picked up and shared on Twitter by Sportscenter. Just a matter of hours after McLaughlin’s shot went in, the video had over 383,000 views and was retweeted over 8,000 times. Other major media outlets began picking up the video, including SLAM Magazine and Barstool Sports.
Replies to the tweet claimed God was with Basha and McLaughlin on Tuesday night. Others claimed it was Kobe smiling down on those who supported him and lived life with a “Mamba mentality.”
“All my coaches and teammates know how intense and fired up I get during practices and games. His mentality is 100% the reason why,” McLaughlin said. “There’s no doubt in my mind Kobe was watching us last night. With our entire student section chanting his name and wearing his jersey.
“Right when that shot went in I knew it was because of him.”