Before we discuss anything basketball related, I've got three words for you: Kobe Bean Bryant. We truly lost a living legend in the basketball community and this is one of the times I was in utter shock with incoming news in the sports world. It's even more heartbreaking when you add in his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, was also taken way before her time in their helicopter accident.
Growing up as a LeBron fan, I've always beaten myself up over not appreciating how great Kobe was until his career was winding down. But whether you hated or loved him as a player, his achievements, his "Mamba mentality" and overall worldwide impact on the game of basketball will forever and always stand the test of time. He impacted a generation of kids and adults in a way that most mortals will never be able to achieve.
How many athletes in any sport can you say had two legit hall of fame careers (No. 8 and No. 24) and both numbers retired? How many that were willing to embrace the highs and lows of one organization for 20 years? Playing through injuries or shooting left handed when the right was casted up? Or just the will to outwork anyone going against him or even on his own team?
Don't get me started on all the songs I've grown up on that paid homage to the Laker great.
This is because Kobe symbolizes something that many people rarely get to in terms of their reach. His relentless commitment to his craft — never wavering through his toughest stretches — and dedication to greatness just transcends sports. Just this past week playing pickup basketball, a few guys we were playing with brought up how we all would yell out "Kobe!" whenever we were putting shots up as a kid.
I'm just thankful I can at least say I'll continue reading his message in the "Mamba mentality" book and understanding the mindset needed to excel beyond measure. I don't mean to take away from our local programs, but this is a moment where the game really must be put on pause. That being said, here's what to look out for here in local high school boys basketball:
GAME OF THE WEEK
Lewiston-Porter at Niagara Falls, Tuesday
This has been the game most people circled on the Niagara Frontier League schedule since the season began, especially with it being these powers' only regular season battle of the year.
Unfortunately, the Lancers (8-4, 6-1 NFL) will be without star sophomore Roddy Gayle Jr., who will miss an indefinite period of time after suffering an injury while scoring 38 points in last week's loss to Middle Early College, per coach Matt Bradshaw.
That takes some of the shine off this matchup, but Lew-Port will still do its best to challenge the Wolverines, who are also coming off a loss to one of the area's top teams, Canisius, back on Jan. 18.
Cross your fingers, basketball fans, that these two teams will meet at full strength in the NFL championship.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Taylor Sanders — Niagara Falls
One player the Wolverines will look to in the matchup above is Sanders. Jaemon "Mookie" Turner has grabbed most of the headlines for Niagara Falls this season, but Sanders has come back nicely from a leg injury that hampered him for most of the 2018-19 season.
Sanders has been heating up as of late too, averaging 30 points over the last two games, including a season-high 34 points against Kenmore East. His length and shooting are crucial to the Wolverine offense, which will be important in taking on the Lancers on Tuesday and in a big non-league battle with St. Joe's on Friday.
Respond to sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos or at email@example.com. Also, tune in to Khari at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on WGR 550's 'Inside High School Sports,' as well as the 'Greater WNY Sports Connection' podcast, a collaboration with Jon Simon and WNY Athletics.