Kobe Bryant’s death leaves Jerry West, NBA community in shock

first_imgPhil Jackson, who coached all five of the Lakers’ title teams Bryant played on, as well as all six of Michael Jordan’s championship Chicago Bulls teams, called Bryant a unique individual.“The crash was a tragedy for multiple families. My heart goes out to Vanessa and the families that lost loved ones,” Jackson told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. “Kobe was a chosen one – special in many ways to many people. Our relationship as coach/player transcended the norm. He went beyond the veil.”Jordan, who was an inspiration for Bryant, released a statement that read, in part: “Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”When a tearful Doc Rivers met with the media before his Clippers played in Orlando on Sunday afternoon, the veteran coach struggled to find adequate words so soon after hearing of the death of his formidable former adversary, who won one of his five NBA rings in 2010 against Rivers’ Boston Celtics, payback after Boston beat the Lakers in 2008.“The news is just devastating to everybody who knew him a long time,” said Rivers, whose team ran out the 24-second shot clock, after which the Magic responded by drawing an eight-second violation in honor of Bryant, who wore Nos. 8 and 24.“He means a lot to me, obviously,” Rivers continued. “He was such a great opponent, you know? It’s what you want in sports. He had that DNA that very few athletes ever have you know, the Tiger Woods and the Michael Jordans.”The Lakers’ next game is scheduled for Tuesday, when they’ll host Rivers’ Clippers at Staples Center in a somber chapter of the burgeoning L.A. rivalry.“Looking at my young players and seeing how emotional they are (and) they didn’t know him, you know?” said Rivers, noting also that Clippers stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were close with Bryant and that Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue played with him. “It just tells you how far his reach was.“Sometimes things don’t make sense, and there’s times you should feel just, you just feel sad,” he added. “And this is one of them. And you have to get through it. We will, we all will. We all have to be strong.“We laughed and joked about the ‘Mamba Mentality.’ We’re all gonna need it right now. I think everybody right now is a Laker fan, we’re all Lakers today.”Magic coach Steve Clifford, who spent one season with the Lakers as an assistant coach during Bryant’s two-decade tenure, called Bryant “an incredibly brilliant man,” adding that he considered it “an honor to even had to have had the chance to be around him for one season.”Derek Fisher, Bryant’s championship backcourt mate, posted a photo of Kobe and Gianna sitting courtside at a recent Lakers game on Instagram and wrote: “I’m trying to comprehend. Maybe in time but right now I just can’t.”Fisher, now the L.A. Sparks head coach, expressed his sympathy to Bryant’s family and added a few words of thanks: “You taught me and an entire generation what striving for excellence actually looks like on a daily basis. What you were building with Gigi, young girls, and women in sport will not end today. Your legacy, Gigi’s legacy, will live on forever. That’s a promise!”The helicopter was en route to the Mamba Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks for a basketball practice when the crash occurred. Gianna was a promising basketball player well known in the women’s basketball community.On ESPN, Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike said she appreciated Kobe’s support of the WNBA, the women’s game in general and his excitement for his daughter’s future within it.“One of my favorite things that he said a lot of people were saying, ‘Hey, don’t you want a son?’ And he said, ‘Why do I need a son? I’ve got a daughter that can carry on my legacy.’” Ogwumike said. “So totally, totally heartbroken, especially for the future generation. We knew her to be the rising star, the one that would carry the torch, the one that would rep his name on the back of the jersey and we were excited for that. It’s just tough for that to be gone way too soon.”Ralph Lawler, the Clippers’ retired Hall of Fame broadcaster, said when he heard the news, he immediately thought of Bryant’s parents, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and Pamela Bryant.Lawler got to know the Bryant family when he played for the Clippers in the early 1980s.“Kobe was like a year old,” Lawler recalled by phone Sunday. “And in those days, to augment my meager income being the radio guy for the Clippers, I’d sell real estate on the side. And I had pretty good connections with the coaching staff and lots of players who would come through … so I took Joe and Pam and their young family out to show houses and we started off sitting in our living room of our home in San Diego – and I was literally bouncing Kobe on my lap.“I know at times they were estranged from Kobe, but to lose a son, you never want to have your children go before you do.”Since retiring in 2016, Bryant made a successful transition from basketball to a series of creative endeavors, winning an Oscar, Sports Emmy and Annie Award for his short film, “Dear Basketball.” He also founded Granity Studios, a multimedia company that’s produced an ESPN+ series called “Detail” that analyzes athletes’ performances and “The Punies,” a top-ranked kids and family podcast that uses songs and sports to deliver lessons about the importance of playing with joy and imagination.“This is a great loss,” said Rivers, who said he had a long conversation with Bryant at a function a few weeks ago. “He had so much more left to do, and he was starting to do it. Never seen him happier.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersAs the story goes, West needed only to see the then-17-year-old from Lower Merion High go one-on-one against Michael Cooper, the retired Laker who’d been a decorated defender, for 10 minutes in an Inglewood gym to recognize how special Bryant was. The Lakers orchestrated a pre-draft deal with Charlotte, which had the 13th pick, agreeing to send veteran center Vlade Divac to the Hornets to acquire the rights to Bryant, who would go on to win five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs and one-regular season MVP.“I will love Kobe forever and always cherish the time that I spent with him,” continued West, now a Clippers consultant. “I watched him grow from an energetic kid into the man he became, making a difference in so many people’s life. He has left the world a better place. Kobe’s legacy will live forever.”Lakers star LeBron James, who on Saturday night in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia surpassed Bryant’s career total of 33,643 points to move into third on the NBA’s career scoring list, was spotted in a long embrace on the tarmac after the Lakers’ plane touched down Sunday.Bryant’s final tweet was congratulating James: “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother. #33644”Shaquille O’Neal, with whom Bryant often sparred but also won three NBA titles together, added to an avalanche of emotion on social media: “There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of loosing [sic] my neice [sic] Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW.” Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday left all of basketball heartbroken and reeling.Bryant, 41, was among nine people killed, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, when the helicopter they were on crashed along a Calabasas hillside.“The news we’ve all received today is the most devastating news that anyone can imagine,” Hall of Famer Jerry West said in a statement. “I am so saddened for Kobe’s parents, Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, Capri, Kobe’s sisters and all of the NBA fans that hold Kobe in their hearts. This loss of Kobe, Gianna, and everyone on board, is beyond tragic and incomprehensible.”It was West’s sharp eye for talent led to Kobe Bryant’s illustrious 20-year career as a Laker and a legacy that transcended the game and made him a Southern California icon.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img