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Vanguard Coach Returns For First Game After Cancer Diagnosis, Honors Kobe's Mambas Basketball Team

COSTA MESA (CBSLA) — An already emotional night for the Vanguard University women's basketball team took an unexpected turn as the Mambas basketball team walked out before the game.

Davis and Kobe
Kobe Bryant visited Coach Russ Davis while he was in the hospital for treatment for throat cancer. (Credit: Russ Davis)

Thursday night marked the return of Coach Russ Davis — his first time on the court in nine months — following a cancer diagnosis.

And though he received a standing ovation when he walked into the area, he turned it around and brought the Mambas basketball team out.

"Kobe had a mission, and he shared that mission with me," Davis said. "And we're going to carry on that mission."

When Kobe Bryant asked Davis if his Mambas could practice at the Vanguard University basketball court, Davis said he didn't hesitate. In fact, he often watched in amazement as Bryant worked with the girls.

"I can't believe he's so patient," Davis said. "He said, 'You gotta be. They're just so young and they're learning and everything, and we just gotta teach them.' He said, 'They're gonna be fine. They're gonna be great."

The Mambas have practiced at the Vanguard University court ever since.

But it wasn't under Davis was diagnosed with throat cancer that he saw who Bryant truly was.

"He would visit me when I was in the hospital," Davis said. "And, you know I had to learn how to walk again, so I was really in a bad place."

Davis said Bryant helped motivate him to walk further than he thought he could.

"He goes, 'You can't feel sorry for yourself,'" Davis said. "He said, 'You got to beat it. You can't let it beat you.'"

And Davis beat it, returning to coach his women's team for the first time in nine months as the Mambas watched.

Davis said Bryant planted a seed, and now it's up to him and the Mambas to keep watering it.

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