By J. NOEL ESPINOZA
Special to the NEWS
San Benito High School Social studies teacher Albert Torruco couldn’t believe it when he found out about the sudden and tragic passing of legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant.
For Torruco, 29 and a Lakers fan, Bryant was more than a celebrity.
The iconic basketball player was a hero and a role model who just about a year ago put the high school on the national spot.
Bryant, 41, died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The entire nation is now remembering his legacy.
“Rest at the end. Never in the middle,” reads a passage by Bryant on the board of Turruco’s classroom.
On Tuesday, Torruco recalled Bryant’s kind and honest reply to a tweet by one of his students in December 2018, after he challenged students to tweet to the basketball star. If the celebrity replies, Torruco promised students, he will waive the final exam with an alternative exam.
“If Kobe Bryant tweets a shoutout to San Benito High by 12/17, US History won’t take the scheduled final exam next week and will instead take an alternate exam,” Torruco wrote on the board for the class.
A few days later, student April Garcia, who had tweeted to Bryant, “Help my class out!” broke the news when she showed Bryant’s reply to the class: “Alternate exam? How about no exam at all.”
Thanks to Bryant, the final exam was waived.
When Kobe Bryant responded, Torruco said the tweet went viral across the nation.
“ESPN and Fox News reported on the story,” Torruco said. “There were so many other (online) pages I remember seeing. They all reported on it.”
Isaac Mancillas, 18, who enjoys playing basketball, was one of the students in Torruco’s class when Bryant responded to the tweet. Mancillas, who is a senior now, was surprised when Bryant recognized the class.
“I will always remember Kobe as the basketball star to get me into the sport of basketball,” he said. “I will remember him not only as a basketball legend but (as) an amazing person and character.”
At Tuesday’s boys and girls basketball games in the SBHS Varsity Gym, coaches, teams, and attendees held a 24 second moment of silence in honor of Bryant.
Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or make sure to grab a copy of the Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2020 issue of the NEWS.