Loyd talks mentorship by Kobe and her BAL experience

SOUTH Africa has been a vibe in recent months. We have achieved great success in sports, have a rich and beautiful culture, and a vibrant music scene easily discoverable through a simple Google search. However, one thing that may not be so visible is the warmth and kindness of our people.

Jewell Loyd, a two-time WNBA Champion, five-time WNBA All-Star, and the current WNBA scoring title holder and dubbed “Gold Mamba” by the late Kobe Bryant, felt the warmth upon her arrival ahead of the BAL’s Kalahari Conference. This echoed during the opening weekend of games at the Sun Bet Arena in Pretoria.

Jewell Loyd at the BAL4Her
Jewel Loyd is passionate about uplifting women’s sports. Pictures: The BAL

After watching Musa Keys’ captivating halftime performance during last Sunday’s Cape Town Tigers vs Petro de Luanda game, Loyd caught up with The Big Tip Off to discuss several topics. While the BAL topped the list, she also reflected on her relationship with the late Kobe Bryant and the importance of giving back.

The atmosphere in the arena last Saturday was indescribable for Loyd. The action on the court and the passionate fans who filled the arena made the experience unforgettable.

The Parktown Boys’ High School band electrified the arena with popular songs like “Emcimbini” by Kabza de Small and also mixed hip hop with a mash-up between Shack Wes’ “Mo Bamba” and Kanye West’s “Carnival” song.

“The band is awesome, we have to get them back to Seattle because they have been amazing,” said Loyd.

The WNBA star mentioned she had a conversation with someone earlier about integrating dance, music and sport. They discussed how these three elements are universal and allow people to communicate.

“If you want to sing or dance and you have a groove, that brings you together,” says Loyd. “You see that here. While the game is playing people are dancing, singing, and enjoying the game and the amazing atmosphere.”

Loyd couldn’t help but notice the buzz and excitement in the air. And as she looked around, she couldn’t help but smile at seeing THE packed arena. It was a great start to the season, and Loyd felt lucky to witness it all.

“The games are very competitive. You see that there is a need to watch sports, for women, girls, boys, and even the Special Olympics. It’s all here,” says Loyd.

When asked about her favourite team, she promised to reveal that before the championship game in Kigali. She said, “I don’t know if I have a favourite team yet. I need to watch a little more. However, before the championship game, I will be able to tell you who I like. I won’t be a bandwagon fan and hop on after the fact.”

Loyd, the number one overall pick in the 2015 WNBA draft, was also the first female face of her mentor, Kobe Bryant’s signature Nike shoe.

“My relationship with Kobe has been one of the best friendships, and mentorships I have had in my life. The last time we talked, it wasn’t about basketball, a lot of it was about life off the court,” says Loyd.

She remembers two pieces of advice Bryant gave her that helped change her approach to life. “He told me to be epic and to create forever. Those two things have changed the way I go about my business outside of basketball,” says Loyd. “I think that coming here has changed my perspective on what I could do. Hopefully, those two things continue to help me grow as a person and as a player.”

Mentorship has shaped Loyd’s life and she believes it can do the same in the lives of others. “We have so much knowledge and power in our platform which not everyone else has. If I shared one or two per cent of that with someone else, it could inspire hope and that is what everyone needs.”

Loyd is passionate about using her platform to give back to the community. She has partnered with her brother Jarryd to invest in a gym she played in while growing up.

“It is not often that you come back home and find a place where you feel comfortable with people. A space where people look like you. So the opportunity to give back is something super important to me,” says Loyd. “I have been able to get to where I am because someone helped me, so it’s only right that I do the same.”

Jewell Lyod at Special Olympics
Jewell Loyd has enjoyed the atmosphere at the Basketball Africa League’s Kalahari Conference.

Loyd is one of 10 WNBA players who are a part of the Player Marketing Agreement, an initiative aimed at growing the visibility of the league and its players, all while building the personal brands of each player. Loyd was inspired to use this initiative and her platform to shine a light on the BAL and the BAL4Her program.

“Coming here has completely opened my eyes to what needs to be done. I think in the W we get caught up in formulating things and talking, but not knowing what needs to be done. So I have to come here to learn and find out how we can contribute,” says Loyd. “A lot of us don’t have an opportunity to be here to see how we can help to elevate the women’s game. This is one of my passions… To elevate the women’s game and give back as much as I can to the people here.”

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