On Feb. 7, Minnesota guard Rachel Banham tied the NCAA Division-1 single-game scoring record when she put 60 points on Northwestern. Two days later, Kobe Bryant reacted:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 9, 2016
One week later, Banham scored 30 points and hit a buzzer-beater against Michigan State. Bryant again responded:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 16, 2016
Banham is now in Los Angeles for the John R. Wooden award ceremony, where the top player in women’s basketball is to be announced today. Naturally, she had to go by Staples Center and check out one of her big fans.
OMGGGGG IM FREAKING OUTTT
— rachel banham (@rachelbanham_1) April 7, 2016
Here’s how their encounter went, and what Kobe said to Banham when they spoke, via Joey Ramirez of NBA.com:
“I didn’t think he’d recognize me, honestly, because that’s Kobe Bryant,” she said.
But Bryant didn’t hesitate when he saw her. They briefly chatted before the five-time NBA champion invited her to meet with him after the game.
“When I hugged him, he said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing and keep putting in work,’” Banham said. “It’s just so cool that someone like him believes in something that I can do.”
Bryant signed Banham’s jersey before introducing her to his wife, Vanessa, and daughters, Natalia and Gianna.
“I had no idea what to say,” Banham said. “I was so nervous and didn’t want to sound weird.”
There was no need for worrying, as Bryant expressed his mutual admiration for her. As she walked out of Staples Center a few minutes later, she learned what her hero had written inside the numbers of her jersey.
“To Rachel: Be the greatest — Kobe Bryant”
Banham averaged 27.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists at Minnesota this season. The next step for her to show her greatness will be in the WNBA.