Zach Randolph and Kobe Bryant crossed paths with each other numerous times during their careers, and even though they never played together, they developed a mutual respect. But after retiring, they would create a whole new relationship developed by fatherhood and their daughters.
Z-Bo asked Kobe to make room for his eldest daughter MacKenly on Team Mamba. Kobe decided to give her a chance, but not promising anything and making her deserve the spot in his organization. MacKinley was ecstatic, as she fully committed to making the team and proved to be a perfect fit for Team Mamba.
Even though she was starstruck by Kobe at first, after a week, it became more normal. Bryant helped MacKinley improve her defense and rotations, seeing the talent in her similar to her father. Under the hoop, MacKinley is the spitting image of her dad – strong and crafty.
Team Mamba would play two games on January 25th, 2020, in the first-ever Mamba Cup, which Kobe organized to bring some of California’s best teams. Unfortunately, tragedy struck the next day, as the whole world was in shock. Randolph shared how his daughter handled the situation of losing three of her friend and coach just like that:
“It was tough for my baby — still is — but I’m proud of her. She’s 15, but she’s strong, man.”Zach Randolph, NY Times
Bryant saw great potential in MacKinley’s game. On multiple occasions, Kobe told Z-Bo: “Z-Bo, just wait until I get done with her.” He didn’t take her on the team beacuse she was Randolph’s daughter. She earned her place.
As the first anniversary of the tragedy is here, Randolph talked about how it still doesn’t feel real, regretting how he never managed to thank Kobe for accepting and helping his daughter improve her game. It formed a bond between the two retired players that was bigger than basketball:
“He loved them girls. He loved my baby. He told me, ‘I love her, man.‘ When he told me that, I told him, ‘We’re brothers for life.’“Zach Randolph, NY Times
Kobe’s honesty and kindness commanded respect in a lot of people’s eyes. He may not be with them anymore, but Kobe’s love and protection are still with his family through everyone he indebted with his words and actions. The Randolph family is one of them.