Stephen A. Smith Emotionally Details Seeing Kobe Bryant Shortly Before Death

by Josh Lanier

Stephen A. Smith said the last time he saw Kobe Bryant, only a few weeks before his death last year, the Lakers legend was the happiest he’d ever seen him. Smith gave a touching tribute to his friend on Tuesday, the anniversary of Bryant’s death.

Bryant died on Jan. 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash. The eight others on board, including his daughter Gianna, 13, died as well. He was 41 years old. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but a ruling is expected soon.

A year later, friends and fans are remembering Bryant for his life and legacy.

“Last time I saw (Kobe Bryant) was on New Year’s Eve. … It was the happiest I’d ever seen him,” Smith said. “He was completely at peace, his guard was down. Anything he had to prove was only to himself. … He’d reached a stratosphere in his life and in his world where he was completely validated and there was nothing else to debate or argue about his stature, his cache, his ascension in the world of sports and beyond.”

Seeing Bryant So Happy was a ‘Beautiful, Beautiful Thing’

Along with his basketball accomplishments, Bryant had also won an Oscar for his animated short Dear Basketball. He also had several other entertainment projects in the works at the time of his death.

To see him so happy and content was “a beautiful, beautiful thing to see,” Smith said.

But out of everything, he was most excited to speak about his four daughters, Smith said. He was especially excited to see Gianna performing so well on the basketball court.

“(Gianna’s) going to UConn, Steven A,” he recalled Kobe Bryant saying. “She’s going to be All-American, Steven A. She’s going to the WNBA, and she’s going to be a star in that too. Wait until you see that girl.”

Smith said he still struggles with Bryant’s death. It seems unfair, he said, to lose someone with such talent so young.

“To see him gone now, it still hurts,” Smith said. “It hurts a lot. It’s going to hurt for a very, very long. I think it’s going to hurt forever. Because no matter how much further in life we all go, the fact that you know he is gone at the age of 41 is just so damn hard to get over. When he had so much he was still willing to give to the world. God has a plan for everyone, we know that, but some are just harder to stomach.”