GREAT FALLS — Who knew that the recipe for viral fame starts with a sad bear?

The Crosby family is learning that firsthand.

It started Thursday at the State AA basketball tournament in Great Falls. Brian Crosby, the coach of the CMR girls basketball team, was scouting the Billings West versus Missoula Sentinel game with his team when all of a sudden his 6-year-old son Coop tapped his shoulder.

“Dad,” said Coop. “That bear looks sad.”

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He pointed to the West mascot sitting by itself with its head in its hands – the Golden Bears team trailed Sentinel by 20.

Coop asked, “Can I go hug him?”

“Sure bud, go ahead,” responded his dad.

From there, Coop confidently walked across the arena and climbed the stairs of the West student section. Coach Crosby got out his phone and started recording as his son strolled up to the sad bear and gave him a heart-felt hug.

Three days later coach Crosby shared the video on social media. He never anticipated what would happened next.

“We tweeted it out and within a couple of hours we had a request from Bleacher Report and a few other outlets asking permission to run it,” recalled Crosby. “It’s just amazing how fast it’s blown up – we’re getting requests from the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, all kinds of places. It’s wild.”

The video has been shared tens of thousands of times on television, sports websites, and social media. Coach Crosby was surprised by the reaction, but not by the act itself. The rest of the world now knows what CMR fans, players and coaches have known for years.

It’s awfully hard to be sad when Coop Crosby is around.

“One thing we’re very proud of as parents is his empathy,” laughed coach Crosby. “He’s so kind to so many different people and I think that the video was a manifestation of what kind of kid he is.”

A CMR player helps Cooper Crosby tie his shoe laces during a timeout. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

As for Coop? He just loves bears and hugs.

“When people are sad I go and hug them,” Coop explained in a matter-of-fact tone. “But especially if it’s a bear. There are a lot of bears in my life. Like red pandas, pandas, black bears, brown bears and grizzly bears. All kinds of them.”

Coop’s big heart is on display every day when he accompanies his dad to games and practice at CMR. The Rustler girls are coming off of their best finish in years, and Coop’s presence is a big part of that.

“He takes the losses harder than anyone else,” laughed his dad. “He adds a little air of levity to practice and the girls are very kind to him and they’re very good to him and hopefully he’ll have so many great memories from the gym. I really enjoy that and am really lucky.”

For now the Rustlers are happy to share Coop with the world. But when the viral fame dies down and it’s back to business as usual – rest assured that wherever Coop goes, there will be a lot more hugs and smiles.

Whether the cameras are rolling or not.

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