Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu will keep Kobe Bryant ‘close’
Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu won’t be drawing comparisons to Kobe Bryant anytime soon. Her game is smooth, fluid, and stylistically different than the ruthless scoring clinics the late Los Angeles Lakers star used to administer on a nightly basis.
Yet Bryant has stayed “close” to Ionescu, even well after his death on Jan. 26 in a helicopter accident. Once she processed her grief like a lot of other athletes who looked up to Bryant, she made herself a promise:
“Everything that I’m going to do, I’m going to make sure that he stays close,” said Ionescu, according to Maria Taylor of ESPN The Magazine. “From here on out, really, everything’s gonna be for him and what he taught me.”
Ionescu took that fire with her only a week after his death, helping Oregon drub the mythical UConn Huskies 74-56 for the Huskies’ worst-ever loss on their home floor. She sniffed a near-triple-double with 10 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists — a performance UConn coach Geno Auriemma had to acknowledge:
“When she walks out, you go, ‘That kid’s not gonna run by anybody, jump over anybody.’ She’s not the biggest, quickest, fastest, strongest. Kind of like describing Sue [Bird],” said Auriemma, comparing the Ducks star to one her former disciples. “Then you start to realize the incredible competitiveness that she has, the skill level that she has, the physical and mental toughness that she has. It’s a great role model for other kids to watch and say, ‘That kid’s doing it, not just by God-given foot speed or strength or agility, she’s doing it because she’s just skilled. She’s worked at it. She’s relentless.’ These are things that kids can acquire; they don’t have to be born with those things. That’s what I admire most about her.”
Maybe nothing encompasses how Ionescu is like the Lakers legend than the quote above. They may not have the same game, stylistically speaking, but they do have the relentless, maniacal pursuit of perfection in common — and that’s the hardest ingredient to brew up greatness.