It was a moment any kid growing up playing basketball dreams of.
Seconds left in a time game against your rival and you know the ball is coming to you.
For Basha High junior guard Trenton McLaughlin that dream became a reality Tuesday night against Perry.
In a No. 24 jersey with the whole crowd chanting Kobe, he hit a game-winner for his idol.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 29, 2020
What made the moment even more special for the Bears’ captain and leading scorer was it came just two days following the unexpected death of his idol, Kobe Bryant. The Laker icon, along with his 13 year-old daughter and seven others, were killed Sunday in a helicopter accident near Bryant’s home in southern California.
“Our coach designed a great play,” McLaughlin explained to Sports360AZ.com’s Jordan Hamm. “I was standing at half court with about four seconds left. Our student section was holding up Kobe jerseys. It’s just a surreal feeling…right when I shot it, I knew if it had to go in, it had to be a bank [shot] and then just a crazy moment. Got swarmed by the student section, just unforgettable.”
The video above, which has gone viral, is a memory McLaughlin and everyone associated with Basha basketball will never forget.
“I just think it’s such an incredible moment for him and our team, something they will remember for the rest of their lives,” Bears head coach Mike Grothaus said to Sports360AZ.com. “[Trenton] is a huge Kobe fan. Always debating that he is the greatest of all-time. He is an extremely competitive kid and I think he gets that from being a Kobe Bryant fan.”
— Brayden Nako (@Brayden28__) January 29, 2020
McLaughlin was quick to compliment his teammates, including freshman forward Landon Schumaker, who helped put him in position for the late-game heroics.
“The shot was incredible,” Schumaker said to Sports360AZ.com. “I know it meant a lot to him as well growing up a Kobe fan. I know when he passed a couple of days ago it meant a lot to Trent. That just made the shot so meaningful in many different ways.”
McLaughlin, who wears number 24, is still reflective on Bryant’s sudden passing as not just America, but the whole world continues to mourn.
“He’s the reason I got into basketball,” he said. “He’s such a role model for me. It was so hard to go through with that. I still don’t believe it, it’s crazy.”
Like McLaughlin, the Bears (12-10) seem to have a flare for late-game heroics winning their last three contents by three points or less and, much like Bryant did, coming up clutch at the most opportune time.
“Those close games are the ones we remember the most,” he said. “I love those moments. My team, we’re very prepared for moments like that and I think the way we’re playing right now, if we defend well and shoot the ball well, we’ll be able to finish this out right.”
The video, shot by fellow Basha student athlete Brayden Nako, has been picked up by outlets like NBC’s “The Today Show,” FOX, TBS, ESPN’s “SportsNation and several others.
The Bears next play at Chandler High Friday night.