BOISE, Idaho — The sudden and tragic death of Kobe Bryant has been a shock felt around the world as tributes continue to pour in worldwide for the NBA legend. Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning in California.
From local coaches to sports reporters and Idaho potatoes, KTVB talked to several people in the Boise area who have some favorite memories of Bryant and his 20-year long career.
One of those favorite stories is how many credit Bryant for saving the Famous Idaho Potato Truck. Frank Muir, the president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission told KTVB the interesting origins of how that story came to life.
The potato truck tours the country every year, promoting the Idaho potato industry. It started in 2012 as a way to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the IPC but in 2016, there was talk of the truck becoming history.
“In 2016, some of my commissioners were wondering and questioning, should we keep the truck on the road? Or should we call it a day and move on to do some other things?” Muir said.
During that same time period, the commission was also working with Heather Cox, an NBC sports reporter who was also a courtside reporter for ESPN and other major television networks throughout her career. It was during an interview in 2016 that Bryant asked Cox about Idaho and the potato truck.
“I did a commercial for the Idaho Potato Commission and it was a commercial about the potato truck getting lost and he’d always come up to me and tease me and say, ‘Did you find the truck yet? Every time I work out I see you on that commercial,'” Cox said.
According to Muir, that story eventually got a little lost in translation and national headlines began crediting Bryant with actually saving the truck. While that's not exactly true, Muir said Bryant did play a part in keeping the truck running. That's because of the simple fact Bryant knew about the truck and asked about it, showing that Idaho potatoes are a worldwide brand and made an impression on everyone, even mega-celebrities and NBA superstars like Bryant.
The Idaho Potato Commission decided the truck tour was a success and has continued it to this day.
“Technically he didn’t really save the truck, but I used that story in our commission meeting to explain the value of keeping the truck on the road," Muir explained. "So the fact that Kobe was celebrated as a hero in keeping the truck, that’ll always one of my favorite memories of the big Idaho potato truck.”
Cox said that the story is just one example of how Bryant could make anyone or anything feel important and how that's one thing she'll always remember about him.
“He just had this great ability to make people feel respected and appreciated and loved and I’m not special because of that - I would say he made everybody feel that way,” she said.