MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As the world mourns the passing of Kobe Bryant, so does a Memphis native who actually played with Kobe.
“Something personal for me is I just saw him last week,” said Tarik Black who played with Bryant for three years when Black played for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Black is currently in Los Angeles rehabbing his knee at the Mamba Sports Academy which is Bryant’s gym.
However, during a brief trip home to Memphis this past weekend, he got the heartbreaking news that his friend died in a helicopter crash just outside of Los Angeles.
“I didn't want to believe it,” said Black.
Black was especially upset to learn that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was on that helicopter as well.
“It’s crazy because the last thing he talked about was family. He was so adamant about family and how good it was and how at peace he was about retiring,” said Black.
Black played alongside Bryant as a Los Angeles Laker for three years including his farewell season in 2016.
Black now plays overseas in Tel Aviv, Israel, but his basketball camp he calls “Transformation 50” is based here in his hometown of Memphis.
Quarin Donley, 17, was apart of that basketball camp in the summer of 2017.
“It's like a passion that I have just like every time I wake up If I can go play basketball I’ll do it,” said Quarin Donley.
Donley is now a 17-year-old senior basketball player at Ridgeway high school.
He said he learned a lot at Black’s basketball camp.
“Well, a lot of people will say that it’s just about basketball, which it really wasn’t. It was more about life,” said Donley.
The 5-day camp focuses equally on basketball as it does on life skills. They teach the young men in the camp things like manners and jobs outside of being a professional basketball player.
Donley was awarded the character award at the camp and was given a very special gift.
“I got gifted some shoes. It wasn't just any type of shoes, it was Kobe Bryant’s,” said Donley.
Donley was given Bryant’s black and gold shoes signed by Kobe Bryant himself as a gift for winning the award.
In light of the passing of Bryant, just maybe those shoes will remind him of a lesson Bryant learned later in life.
Black says in his final conversation with Bryant, Bryant told him he probably would have retired earlier if he didn’t sustain so many injuries. Black says he didn’t want his final season to be on the “injured” list so he could be healthy in his final season.
He says his real passion was his family and storytelling. Bryant even won an Oscar for an animated film he wrote after basketball. Black says he wanted the kids in the camp to learn there is life after basketball.
Donley says he wants to study music and bio-engineering in college next year.
He also wants to “walk-on” a college basketball team, but he won’t be walking with the shoes once worn by Kobe Bryant.
He says those shoes are being stored in a remote, secured location.