Former NBA star and Lewisburg native Bimbo Coles reflects on playing against Kobe Bryant

LEWISBURG, WV (WOAY) – Bimbo Coles, a Lewisburg native, played for 14 years in the NBA. It was years after he got drafted that a young and talented Kobe Bryant entered the league and changed it forever. 

“You know, when you’re in that community of being an NBA player, you’re the best basketball players in the world and then there’s Kobe Bryant,” Coles said. “You know, there’s not too many special talents that come around like him. Not just from the basketball standpoint but just an overall person that he was.” 

Bimbo Coles remembers Kobe Bryant as a mentor, a friend and a family man, but on the court, a fierce competitor. 

“He was coming. I had to angle and I’m just like, ‘I’m just not gonna let him dunk on me.’ So I was just going to take him out of the air and when I went into him, we collided in air but we both fell back,” Coles said. “I fell back on my back and he got up and said, ‘Not tonight Bimbo. Not tonight.’” 

When Coles heard the news of his tragic death along with the eight others, Coles, like many, was in disbelief. But during this time of grief, for him, it is about taking his example and as the head coach of the Greenbrier East High School boys, implementing those values in his players. 

“We’ve just been trying to continue to come together and learn how to be really good teammates, and I think that’s just one of the things that Kobe was so good about,” Coles said. “He was just a great teammate.” 

Although they never played in the same jersey, Coles says his presence elevated the entire league and that he will be remembered for so much more than just that. 

“You look at Kobe and you see this big icon, but you know, I think a lot we’ll remember about him is sitting courtside with his daughter and also seeing that smile of his that really kind of brightens up a room when you’re around,” he said. 

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Anna Saunders
Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.