A year ago today, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were killed in a tragic helicopter crash.
Both fans, family, and members of the NBA community are taking today to talk about the tremendous impact of Bryant’s life and career.
Brooklyn Nets player, Kyrie Irving, showed up to Monday’s game with the iconic yellow No. 8 Lakers jersey to honor his friend. The game was at Barclays center between the Nets and the Miami Heat.
The two shared an extremely close bond. On the day that the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 championship, Irving FaceTimed his friend Kobe Bryant from the locker room to share and celebrate the news. In many ways, Bryant was a mentor to the young Irving.
Irving sat out of the Brooklyn Nets game the night Kobe Bryant died. His death had greatly shocked and devastated Irving.
Irving’s First Time meeting Bryant
Kyrie Irving joined the select team with Team USA in 2012. He was a part of the practice squad that helped the team prepare for the London Olympics.
This is where Irving would get his first face-to-face interaction with the Lakers legend. He told this story on Kevin Durant’s podcast, “The ETCs.”
“I walk over there and my heart’s pounding, bro. I don’t know why. And I’m like, I’m about to go talk with Kobe. I’m like, honestly, I’d beat you one-on-one bro. And I practiced the line in my head. Like when I get the chance Kobe, I could beat you one-on-one. I practiced in the mirror before I got there,” Irving said, according to Forbes.
The 20-year-old had practiced for the moment, but it didn’t turn out as planned.
“I’m going to go straight up like Kobe, man. Like I could beat you one-on-one. Honestly we should get this one on one game. Honestly I think you can’t guard me. I kind of went off script. And then Duke Blue Planet [from the university] was right there and they just captured the whole thing, the exchange.”
Kyrie Irving recalled that Bryant was always incredibly respectful to all the other players in the NBA. He remembers the opportunity to play with Kobe as a chance to take his exceptional playing style to through to the new generation.
The two had a lot of mutual respect for one another. After Kyrie went up to talk to him, Bryant joked with his business team about their interaction. While Irving spoke about his aura and his legend as a player, he most respected his position as a family man.
“And you sit down and talk to him and it’s just like this dude is the fiercest, warrior-looking person that I’ve ever been around. But as a person, he’s the same way. And I could respect somebody like that, that also a the root of it, at the foundation, was how he took care of his family. All kidding aside, when I was a kid and growing up into a man, what I appreciated more is how he took care of his family and then how he went about his business,” Irving said.
Kyrie Irving is Back
Kyrie Irving returned to the court after a seven-game absence for personal reasons.
He apologized to fans and said that he was “happy to be back” and that he needed the break.
Regarding his absence, he said, “There are so many oppressed communities, so many things going on that are just bigger than a ball going in the rim.” Irving is known for his work in racial justice as well as other social issues. He also cited “a lot of family and personal” issues at the forefront of his decision to take a hiatus.
Irving said he reconnected with his teammates and coach and is excited to start back up.
“We’ve missed him. I’m excited to get him back out there on the floor. … It’s hard to build chemistry without playing, and we’re not playing in practice. So, the chemistry is going to be formed on the floor during games. It’s going to take some time, but we’re excited about the possibilities,” Coach Steve Nash said, according to The Washington Post.
Irving has brought others to help assist him in his work outside of basketball. He said he has “many mentors” that are helping take things off his plate.