SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – “You grow up and you dream of being like Kobe. He’s a hero and when I first heard the news it was crushing,” said Trey Witter, a guard for Springfield College Basketball.

The news of NBA icon Kobe Bryant’s passing devastated fans around the world Sunday.

“I was shocked, you know, I didn’t believe it right off the bat,” Springfield College Guard Heath Post recalled.

“I didn’t believe it,” basketball fan Cameron Quinlan said. “My friend was here, a regular in the store, and out of the blue he shows me a TMZ article, I said ‘No way.'”

Now that the horrible news has set in, the grieving has begun.

“It’s definitely a big hit for the community, just because he’s such a fierce competitor and everybody really respects competitors,” Springfield College Basketball Guard Heath Post said. “What he did for the game was amazing.”

“I definitely got broken up about it, because basketball means so much to me being from Springfield and just the culture around it– from the shoes, the music about him, everything, he just encapsulates it all.” Quinlan said.

Throughout his 20-year career, Kobe inspired a whole generation of fans and players.

“To my generation, Kobe Bryant was our Michael Jordan,” Former Skidmore College Basketball player and South Hadley native Miguel Santiago said. “We grew up right around the time where Kobe was making a name for himself.”

And you didn’t have to be a Lakers fan to enjoy the show. Kobe had a fan base of his own.

“Growing up in Massachusetts where the Celtics were everything, you were kind of taught to route against the Lakers,”Santiago said. “However, there was always one exception. And that was Kobe.”

“You grow up a Celtics fan, you kinda hate Kobe but you love him because you know how good he is,” Quinlan laughed.

In Springfield at the birthplace of basketball, players say it’s more than just a sport.

“Basketball is about neighborhoods, it’s about hanging out with people, it’s about laughing, having fun, and that’s probably one of the worst parts about it, is that he was trying to bring that experience to a lot of different people, and you know, that got cut short,” Springfield College Basketballs’ Heath Post said.”

“When something like this happens you realize the effect that basketball can have and how powerful it is,” Springfield College Basketball’s Trey Witter said. “You build these relationships with your teammates and people around you and when something like this happens and someone that’s such a big part of basketball is taken away, you realize how tight the community is and how important the sport is to people.”

Kobe had such a profound effect on fans and players’ lives that his legacy will continue on and off the court for years to come.

“He definitely influenced me, I shoot a fade away shot that I modeled off his shot so he definitely influenced me, I loved watching him play growing up.”

Heath Post

“That mamba mentality… I just turned 24 this year. This was supposed to be my ‘Mamba Year.’ It was all about achieving every goal I set my mind to and I kind of tap into some of his inspiration for mine.”

Cameron Quinlan

“His mentality is being a killer every time you step on the court. I mean, that is something that I will always remember Kobe for.”

Trey Witter