Natalia’s love of volleyball started in 2012. “It was the London Olympics,” she says. “My mother took me to look at Misty Could play seaside volleyball.” Misty Could-Treanor is essentially the most profitable seaside volleyball participant in historical past. That yr, she and teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings received gold for the third time. Natalia was 9.
“I used to be watching and [my Mom] was like, ‘Nani, you are going to love this sport. You’re going to like volleyball. I’m calling it proper now,’” she says. “I believe [my mom] knew I wasn’t assured in my top. She’s like, ‘You’re going to play volleyball. You’re going to get assured due to this. There are all these different tall women too, so that you’re not the one one.” Natalia says she wasn’t into basketball as a result of she hates working. Like, actually hates it.
She likes leaping actually excessive, although: Natalia is an distinctive center blocker. They’re often the tallest on the group, they usually’re about protection, and assaults. The kill — an unreturnable assault by the opposition that leads immediately to some extent highly effective shot angled downward — is volleyball’s equal of a slam dunk.
“I keep in mind this one kill,” says Natalia. “We had been enjoying an away recreation, at a rival college, St. Margaret’s. We had been actually down. I received irritated as a result of it will get very aggressive between the colleges. One in all my finest associates was our setter [and] we had a stage of telepathy virtually, the place we might learn one another’s minds. She was setting the ball, we ran a 3” — Natalia talks together with her palms now, diagramming within the air, “which is like the center is right here, the setters are right here, one other exterior is right here. When she set that three, I used to be so prepared!”
She slammed the kill. “I can’t keep in mind if we [won] or not,” Natalie says, smiling her father’s smile. “I simply keep in mind that one second.”
Natalia attended USC volleyball video games — generally together with her mom, father, and sister Gianna. Kobe cherished USC and adopted it because the athletic alma mater he didn’t have. On November 23, 2019, Natalia attended a USC vs Oregon match. It was simply she and her father. Two months later, Kobe and Gianna had been gone.
The sports activities world — the entire world — was in a state of shock. The town of Los Angeles continues to mourn. Beyoncé sang at Kobe Bryant’s Staples Heart memorial service. President Barack Obama provided a tribute. Vanessa would go on to sue the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Division in September 2020 for negligence after officers made and shared pictures of the crash. The helicopter tragedy that ended the lives of Natalia’s father, sister, and 7 others is seemed upon by many as an omen that preceded the mass-casualty, anxiety-ridden, culture-shifting pandemic during which we’re all making an attempt to outlive.
Nothing has been the identical since Kobe died, is a cultural chorus. Effectively, with regard to Natalia, we aren’t simply speaking about what has modified in the world. We’re speaking in regards to the loss and grief and shifts in her world.
“I wished to play volleyball in school,” says Natalia. “I performed membership volleyball with the intention of changing into a D1 athlete.” Wistfully, she remembers that final match together with her father. “That was an particularly cool second that I received to expertise with him, and sit courtside, and watch two of the highest groups. They had been going at it. I used to be in awe watching them.”