E.A. Sports Today

Kobe on Kobe

California tragedy that claimed NBA legend hits home for Oxford point guard who shares player’s name, birthday

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
OXFORD – The tragic helicopter crash that claimed the life of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others Sunday may have taken place in the rough foothills outside Los Angeles, but the shockwaves that were felt around the globe hit particularly hard in Calhoun County.
Oxford senior point guard Kobe Warren was getting ready for practice when his brother told him the news that shook the basketball and entertainment worlds. Like everyone, he didn’t believe it at first, but then the images and reports confirmed the worst.
Warren never met Bryant, who made the jump from high school to the NBA and retired in 2016 after 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers as the league’s third all-time leading scorer, with the exception of watching “a few games,” but his connections to the expected first-ballot Hall of Famer run deep. Not only was he named after the 18-time all-star – at the suggestion of his brother Keenan – they shared the same birthday (Aug. 23).
“It was right before practice,” Warren said. “My brother texted me and he told me what happened. At first I didn’t think it was true, it was too much (to believe) and everybody was saying it was fake, but I saw some pictures and thought that’s reaI. I came home, they weren’t talking too much and my mom was kind of sad about it. You could tell when you went on social media everybody was talking about it, what happened, his daughter, too, It’s real sad.”
Jacksonville Christian sharpshooter Kobe Messer also was named after the Lakers’ star and some say he even plays like him. He said when he heard the news “my heart stopped when I heard that he actually passed. I didn’t think it was true.”

Warren, the son of former Jacksonville State great Earl Warren, said his whole family were Kobe fans. It didn’t take him long to adopt Bryant as his favorite player, and it didn’t take long after he first started playing to realize the legacy in his names.
“It was like every time you played everybody would say your name is ‘Kobe’ you’ve got to be good,” he said. “And then there’s my last name, too. It’s not too much pressure.”
Warren knows how to handle pressure. He doesn’t score the way Bryant did, but he leads his team in other ways. He keeps the offense together with his deft ball-handling skills and court sense and just last week helped the Yellow Jackets win their third Calhoun County Tournament championship in the last four years.
“My coach says I’ve got the keys to the boat and I’ve just got to keep the team going,” he said.
Warren and the Yellow Jackets return to action Monday at home against Albertville. An Oxford victory would force a coin flip to host the three-team Area 13 tournament and provide an automatic berth into the Class 6A subregion playoff round.

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