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‘Mamba 5' members keep Kobe, Gigi Bryant's legacy alive with their goals

Kobe Bryant had a vision for his daughter, Gigi, and her teammates. Now, Gigi’s teammates are working to follow through on his plan.

Friday marks four years since the helicopter crash that killed a total of nine people, including the Bryant’s, in a close-knit Orange County basketball community. Few know that community better than the girls known as the “Mamba 5.”

Sage Hill School sophomore Amalia Holguin and seniors Kat Righeimer, Annabelle Spotts, Emily Eadie, and Zoie Lamkin make up the five, who played on Kobe’s Club Team – The Mamba’s.

“Obviously, not a lot of people can say they’ve been coached by Kobe Bryant, but definitely a huge privilege,” Righeimer said.

“The first thing that comes to mind, really, is my gratitude for that experience,” Spotts said. “I’m very grateful for all the lessons we all learned and can share about just the things that he taught us.”

“He was like the person who made me. like. love basketball; someone who made me really enjoy it,” Holguin said.

“At the end of practice, he’d always tell us, ‘Look yourself in the mirror,’ and, ‘Did you get 1% better today?’ And if not, you got tomorrow,’” Righeimer said.

“He just kept kind of pushing us and was like, ‘If you really want to do this, we’re going to do this,’” Eadie said.

Kobe filled his squad with top talent. His passion was fueled by his dreams for his daughter Gigi, their teammate.

“Gigi was definitely the type of player that would not back down from any challenge,” Righeimer said. “I feel like Gigi played a lot like Coach Bryant and you could see watching film of her how some of the mannerisms were the same.”

Gigi was a member of the team, but the squad was a family. And Kobe had a vision for the group.

“He set a plan and I just went with it,” Holguin said. “I believed it.”

That plan was for the girls to play on the same club team and then play together at Sage Hill School in Newport Coast.

“He told my parents about this plan and I was like I want to be a part of this,” Lamkin said.

But when the helicopter crashed four years ago Friday, it killed nine people, including eight members of their close-knit Orange County basketball community. Among the dead was the pilot, the Bryant’s, and Assistant Coach Christina Mauser – who the girls referred to as the “Mother of Defense.”

“I just have so much to thank her for because she really taught me good work ethic,” Emily Eadie.

“Every time it was like, ‘Oh, it’s Coach Christina’s turn to take over practice,’ we were like, ‘OK, we’re going to get better today,” Holguin said.

Mamba Parents John and Keri Altobelli also died, along with their daughter, Alyssa.

“I would just look forward to (Alyssa’s) jokes every day during warms ups,” Spotts said.

“She’s hilarious to me. Me and her … would just laugh all the time, but she was a great player,” Lamkin added.

Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton, died, too.

“When I think of Payton, I just see the bright smile that she wore every single day to practice,” Eadie said. “I was like, a really shy person coming on the team. I feel like for me, it takes me a while before I get to know someone, and I feel like Payton was like one of the first people that really reached out to me and made me feel a part of the team.”

These girls haven’t even graduated high school and yet, they’ve endured so much.

Sage Hill Head Coach, Kerwin Walter, also knows they’ve accomplished so much, having won a CIF title and a state title, too, in 2022. On top of that, at least three of the girls will play college basketball at schools like Princeton, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago.

“I think all the girls are resilient,” Walter said. “These girls found a way to see the next day, the next moment, the next step, and they just continually took those steps.”

“This vision was a strong vision, and I think they’re doing what they wanted them to do,” Walter said.

With still a few games left this season, the “Mamba Five” isn’t done yet.

“I just want to be able to honor them and play for them,” Righeimer said.

They say this as they continue to move forward, and they’ll do it all “4 the 8” for the eight members of their basketball community who were killed four years ago.

The ‘8’ will be with them forever.

“They’re the motivation every time I step on the court,” Spotts said.

“I feel like we’ve made them all super proud by coming to this school and doing exactly what he expected us to do,” Lamkin said. “We’ve just been doing everything we’re supposed to do and I feel like when I walk out of this school as a senior, I’m going to be proud of myself and each and every one of them next to me.”

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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